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Tafsir 

al-Tustari 

Great Commentaries 
on the Holy Qur'an 



Koval Aal al-Hayt 
Institute for 
Islamic Thought 


FONS VITAE 



AhleSunnah Library ( nmusba.wordpress.com ) 




Tafslr al-Tustarl 




Tafslr 

al-Tustarl 

by 

Sahl b. c Abd Allah al-Tustari 


Great Commentaries 
on the Holy Qur'an 

translated by 

Annabel Keeler and Ali Keeler 



Royal Aal al-Bayt 
Institute for 
Islamic Thought 


FONS VITAE 




First published in 2011 by 
Fons Vitae 

49 Mockingbird Valley Drive 
Louisville, KY 40207 

http://www.fonsvitae.com 
Email: fonsvitaeky@aol.com 


© 2011 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought 
Amman, Jordan 

Great Commentaries on the Holy Qur'an: ISSN: 1943-1821 
Library of Congress Control Number: 2011922358 
ISBN 9781891785191 

No part of this book may be reproduced 
in any form without prior permission of 
the publishers. All rights reserved. 

This book was typeset by Neville Blakemore, Jr. and Muhammad Hozien 


Printed in Canada 


Contents 


Acknowledgements ix 

Preface xi 

Introduction to the Translation xv 

i. Sahl al-Tustari’s Spiritual Formation and his Teachers xv 

ii. Tustarl as Spiritual Master, and his Disciples xix 

in. Tustari’s Works xxiii 

iv. The Tafslr al-Qur'dn al- c azim xxv 

v. Tustari s Approach to Qur'an Interpretation xxvi 

vi. Mystical Teachings xxx 

vii. Conclusion lix 

Introduction to the Commentary 1 

1 Al-Fatiha 10 

2 Al-Baqara 12 

3 A 1 Imran 41 

4 Al-Nisa' 53 

5 Al-Maida 60 

6 Al-An c am 64 

7 Al-A c raf 71 

8 Al-Anfal 81 

9 Al-Tawba 83 

10 Yunus 88 

11 Hud 91 

12 Yusuf 95 

13 Al-Ra c d 100 

14 Ibrahim 102 

15 Al-Hijr 104 

16 Al-Nahl 107 

17 Al-Isra' 112 

18 Al-Kahf 115 

19 Maryam 119 

20 Ta Ha 124 


v 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


21 

Al-Anbiya 3 

128 

22 

Al-Hajj 

131 

23 

Al-Mu'minun 

135 

24 

Al-Nur 

137 

25 

Al-Furqan 

139 

26 

Al-Shu c ara 3 

142 

27 

Al-Naml 

144 

28 

Al-Qasas 

147 

29 

Al- c Ankabut 

149 

30 

Al-Rum 

151 

31 

Luqman 

153 

32 

Al-Sajda 

155 

33 

Al-Ahzab 

157 

34 

Saba 3 

160 

35 

Al-Mala 3 ika (or Fatir) 

161 

36 

Ya Sin 

163 

37 

Al-Saffat 

165 

38 

Sad 

167 

39 

Al-Zumar 

170 

40 

Al-Mu 3 min (or Ghafir) 

175 

41 

Al-Sajda (or Fussilat) 

177 

42 

Al-Shura (or Ha MIm Ayn Sin Qaf) 

180 

43 

Al-Zukhruf 

183 

44 

Al-Dukhan 

186 

45 

Al-Jathiya 

188 

46 

Al-Ahqaf 

191 

47 

Muhammad 

193 

48 

Al-Fath 

196 

49 

Al-Hujurat 

200 

50 

Qaf 

204 

51 

Al-Dhariyat 

207 

52 

Al-Tur 

210 

53 

Al-Najm 

212 

54 

Al-Qamar 

215 

55 

Al-Rahman 

216 

56 

Al-Waqi c a 

218 

57 

Al-Hadld 

220 

58 

Al-Mujadila 

224 


59 

6o 

61 

62 

63 

64 

65 

66 

67 

68 

69 

70 

71 

72 

73 

74 

75 

76 

77 

78 

79 

80 

81 

82 

83 

84 

85 

86 

87 

88 

89 

90 

91 

92 

93 

94 

95 

96 


Contents 


Al-Hashr 

226 

Al-Mumtahana 

229 

Al-Saff 

231 

Al-Jumu c a 

233 

Al-Munafiqun 

234 

Al-Taghabun 

236 

Al-Talaq 

237 

Al-Tahrlm 

238 

Al-Mulk 

240 

Al-Qalam (or Nun) 

242 

Al-Haqqa 

244 

Al-Ma c arij 

247 

Nuh 

250 

Al-Jinn 

251 

Al-Muzzammil 

253 

Al-Muddaththir 

255 

Al-Qiyama 

257 

Al-Insan 

259 

Al-Mursalat 

261 

Al-Naba 3 

263 

Al-Nazi c at 

265 

c Abasa 

267 

Al-Takwlr 

268 

Al-Infitar 

270 

Al-Mutaffifln 

272 

Al-Inshiqaq 

274 

Al-Buruj 

276 

Al-Tariq 

277 

Al-A c la 

279 

Al-Ghashiya 

280 

Al-Fajr 

282 

Al-Balad 

285 

Al-Shams 

288 

Al-Layl 

289 

Al-Duha 

291 

Al-Inshirah 

293 

Al-Tln 

295 

Al- c Alaq 

296 


vii 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


97 Al-Qadr 

297 

98 Al-Bayyina 

298 

99 Al-Zalzala 

299 

100 Al- c Adiyat 

301 

101 Al-Qari c a 

302 

102 Al-Takathur 

303 

103 Al- c Asr 

304 

104 Al-Humaza 

306 

105 Al-FIl 

308 

106 Quraysh 

309 

107 Al-Ma c un 

310 

108 Al-Kawthar 

312 

109 Al-Kafirun 

313 

110 Al-Nasr 

314 

111 Al-Masad 

316 

112 Al-Ikhlas 

317 

113 Al-Falaq 

318 

114 Al-Nas 

320 

Appendix of Names Cited 

323 

Bibliography 

333 

Index I: Qur anic Citations 

343 

Index II: People and Places 

353 

Index III: Subjects and Technical Terms 

359 


Plates follow page lx. 


viii 


Acknowledgements 


We would like to express our sincere gratitude to HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad who first 
invited us to embark on the translation of a Sufi tafsir for the Great Commentaries on the Qur'an 
Project, and to the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute, Amman, Jordan, for their generous patronage of 
our translation of the Tafsir al-Qurdn al-Azim of Sahl b. c Abd Allah al-Tustari. We would also 
particularly like to thank the Series Editor, Yousef Meri, for his tireless support in overseeing the 
translation through all its different stages, for his careful perusal of the English translation against 
the Arabic original, and for his help and many suggestions regarding the referencing in the annota- 
tion of the translation. 

We would also like to offer our thanks and appreciation to Samir Mahmoud, here in Cambridge, 
who has gone through the whole translation, both at an early stage, and in its final draft. Being a 
native speaker of Arabic and having fluency in English as well as a proficient knowledge of Sufism, 
his comments and suggestions on many details of the text, and his answers to our many queries, 
have been invaluable. Also here in Cambridge, we would like to thank Aziza Spiker, who has acted 
as proof reader and copy editor for the translation, and who has also made pertinent comments 
about the translation of some of the Qur anic verses. Our thanks are also due Sahra Ucar, who at 
short notice stepped in to help with compiling the Appendix, and to Lejla Demiri, who assisted 
with the sourcing of many hadiths, and who acted as our guide at the Suleymaniye Library, whence 
we were able to obtain two of the manuscripts we used for the translation. In addition, we would 
like to thank Professor Paul Ballanfat of the Galatasaray University in Istanbul, with whom we have 
consulted on certain passages in the Tafsir, and Professor Nasrollah Pourjavady of Tehran University 
and Elarith Bin Ramli (the latter currently working on Makkl’s Qut al-qulub at Oxford University), 
both of whom read through our Introduction to the Translation and made several helpful sugges- 
tions, though we should add that any and all mistakes are, of course, our own. We would also like 
to mention our gratitude to Robert Spiker and Ana Maria Giraldo for lending their expertise in 
design and graphics, and to Valerie Turner and Muhammad Hozien for the extraordinary, unstinting 
dedication they have shown in the final copy-editing, proofreading and typesetting of the manuscript. 

Lastly, we would like to thank our families, and especially our spouses, Paul the husband of 
Annabel, and Mariam the wife of Ali, for their tremendous patience and encouragement during 
the completion of this work. 

We would like to dedicate this translation to the master sitarist, Ustad Mahmud Mirza, whose 
pure and beautiful music first gave us a glimpse of Paradise, and has continued to inspire us ever since. 


IX 



Preface 


From the earliest centuries of Islam, Muslim mystics, or ‘Sufis as they are now mostly called, reflected 
upon the verses of the Qur an, expounding their insights and inspired comments to others who 
might benefit from them. These comments were not intended to contradict or stand in place of 
the literal readings of the Scripture; rather they were a way of going beyond them in order to draw 
out inner meanings that sprang from, and were informed by, states, stations and spiritual realities 
( haqcbiq ) experienced by the mystics. This process of eliciting inner meanings from the Qur’an, 
termed by some Sufis ‘ istinbdt ] meaning literally ‘drawing up water from a well’, might take the 
form of brief, elliptical and allusive comments, or lengthier and more detailed explanations. These 
early comments were eagerly memorised and passed on by the mystics’ associates and followers, 
since they were seen not only as a profound way of understanding the Qur an, but also as a source 
of guidance and illumination for anyone aspiring to travel the spiritual path. 

As with other religious sciences, the early esoteric interpretations of the Qur'an were, to begin 
with, mainly transmitted through the oral tradition, and for the most part they appear to have 
remained as scattered comments preserved in disparate sources until the time when the fifth/ 
eleventh -century Sufi, Abu c Abd al-Rahman al-Sulaml (d. 412/1021) compiled his anthology of Sufi 
Qur'an commentary, the Haqcdiq al-tafsir (‘Realities’ or ‘Truths of Interpretation’). Sulami arranged 
all the exegetical material he could gather, comments that had been attributed to many different 
mystics, in a verse-by-verse commentary on the Qur'an. 

The Tafsir al-Qufan al-azlm (‘Commentary on the Great Qur'an’) of Sahl b. c Abd Allah al-Tustarl 
(d. 283/896) is remarkable in having been compiled much earlier than this, by Tustarl’s immediate 
disciples and within one generation of his death, and in having been preserved as a commentary 
on the Qur'an through an authenticated chain of transmission, until it was first written down by 
a scribe in the mid- sixth/ twelfth century. Thus it may claim to be the earliest extant Sufi Qur'an 
commentary ascribed to a single author. What is more, Tustarl’s disciples integrated within this 
exegetical corpus a large number of apposite sayings of their master as well as accounts of events in 
his life. This makes it possible to situate the interpretations within the compass of Tustarl’s thought, 
and to gain a greater understanding of the profound connection between his mystical doctrines 
and his exegesis of the Qur'an. 

Tustari was among the most important and influential mystics of the early, formative period 
of Islamic mysticism, and many later famous Sufis and thinkers drew upon his ideas and cited 
his sayings, including Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), Shihab al-DIn Yahya al-Suhrawardi (d. 
587/1191) and Muhyl al-DIn Ibn ‘Arab! (d. 638/1240). The fourth/tenth-century Sufi author Abu Talib 
al-Makki (d. 386/996), who had fully imbibed Tustarl’s teachings through contact with the circle 
of his followers in Basra, contributed to the promulgation of his thought and sayings through his 
treatise on Sufism, the Qut al-qulub (‘Nourishment of Hearts’), which was freely used by Ghazali 
in the composition of his celebrated Ihya ' c ulum al-dln (‘Revival of the Religious Sciences’). Among 
Tustarl’s significant contributions to the doctrines of Sufism are his emphasis on the remembrance 
of God ( dhikr ), on complete trust in God ( tawakkul ) and his discourse on the ‘Muhammadan Light’. 

This volume represents the first translation into English of Tustarl’s Tafsir, and indeed of any 
complete Sufi commentary on the Qur'an. The printed text we have used is the most recent edition 
published in Lebanon by Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya, and edited by Muhammad Basil ‘Uyyun al-Sud. 


xi 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


This appears to be a replication of the Cairo edition published in 1911, and is not a critical edition 
of the text. However, we were fortunate in obtaining CDs of three manuscripts of the Tafslr, and 
have consulted these manuscripts throughout the process of our translation. This has enabled us 
to fill in a number of lacunae, and correct numerous mistakes in the current published edition. 
All the additions that we have made on the basis of these manuscripts have been clearly marked 
between half brackets, thus: r . ,. 1 , and referenced in the footnotes along with the folio numbers of 
each manuscript, and likewise, any corrections we have made have been recorded in the notes. 
The corrections made to the text are not exhaustive, but have assisted, we hope, in clarifying many 
unnecessarily obscure passages. The manuscripts we have used are as follows: 

MS Fatih 638, dated 872/1468 

MS Fatih 3488, dated 965/1558 

MS Zahiriyya 515, dated twelffh/eighteenth or thirteenth/nineteenth century. 

In the footnotes, we have referred to these as MSS Z515, F638 and F3488, and have cited them in 
this order, rather than in their chronological order, since it was the Zahiriyya manuscript that was 
first available to us. The MSS Z515 and F3488 form part of the same manuscript tradition, whilst 
MS F638 represents the second manuscript tradition — Professor Gerhard Bowering, in his study 
of the manuscripts of Tustari’s Tafslr, has identified two groups of manuscripts overall, and we have 
thus had access to representatives of both. A comparison of the manuscripts of the Tafslr in general, 
and of the two manuscript traditions in particular, reveals only minor differences between them. 1 

As is the case with most Sufi commentaries on the Qur'an, Tustarl’s Tafslr does not comprise 
interpretations of every single verse. Nonetheless there are comments on a selection of verses, or 
parts of verses, from all the suras of the Qur'an, amounting to around 1000 verses in total. These 
comments, as they appear in both the published edition and the manuscripts, mostly follow the order 
of the Qur'an itself, the main exception being sections of verse ordering in Suras 2 and 3 (al-Baqara 
and A 1 Tmran) . In cases where there is a divergence from the verse order, we have not corrected 
it, unless such a change was warranted by the manuscripts. All citations of the Quranic text are in 
italic. In accordance with the wishes of our patrons, we have used the Aal al-Bayt’s official transla- 
tion of the Qur'an, with a few minor amendments which were often, though not always, required 
to comply with Tustari’s particular understanding of the meaning of a word in the verse. Indeed, 
any examination of a variety of Qur'an translations will demonstrate the polysemy of its language. 

The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition of Tustari’s Tafslr, while not making any 
substantial changes to the earlier Cairo edition of the text, has sourced many of the hadlths and 
traditions that are cited in the commentary. We felt it useful to include these as they are, even 
though we did not have access to the same editions of all the hadlth collections he was using, and 
were therefore not able to check all his references. Those that we were able to check, we found to 
be correct. We have additionally sourced quite a number of hadlths for which the editor had not 
provided references, though we were unfortunately not successful in sourcing all those that are 
cited in the commentary. Where two editions of the same hadlth collection have been referred to, 
they are differentiated by the place and/or date of publication. 

For a Sufi text that is so allusive in nature, and in which terms are used in subtly different 
ways in the various contexts, we decided that rather than providing a glossary of technical terms, 
it might be more useful to compile a detailed index, in which various meanings and applications 
of a particular term will be given along with the references to the relevant page and note numbers. 
The Introduction to the Translation presents detailed explanations and discussions of the salient 
doctrines presented in the Tafslr, as well as some of the more unusual concepts and complex aspects 
of Tustari’s teachings. 

It is worth explaining here the use of a few of the terms that occur frequently in this volume. 
As indicated above, the term ‘Sufi’, as a noun or adjective, is now generally used to denote either ‘a 


1 The manuscripts of Tustari’s Tafslr are fully discussed in Gerhard Bowering, The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical 
Islam: The Qur'anic Hermeneutics of the Sufi Sahl at-Tustari (d. 283/896) (Berlin and New York, 1980), pp. 100-5. 


Preface 


proponent of mysticism in Islam’ or related to, and associated with, Islamic mysticism, respectively. 
In the Introduction to the Translation, and in some of the notes to our translation, the word ‘Sufi’ has 
been used with this meaning. However, it is worth bearing in mind that this is a retrospective use of 
the term Sufi, which in the early period was mainly associated with mystics of Baghdad, and only 
gradually, from the sixth/twelfth century on, gained wider currency in the Muslim world. Tustari 
never once uses the Arabic equivalent for ‘Sufi’ in his Tafslr (that is, tasawwuf or sufi); instead, he 
speaks of the ‘mystic’ ( c arif pi. c urafa') or the ‘friend of God’ (wall, pi. awliya ’). The second term 
that should be mentioned here is the word mdrifa, a term applied by Sufis to mean a divinely- 
bestowed mystical or experiential knowledge of God that is beyond the level of knowledge attained 
merely through instruction or discursive reasoning. For this we have used the conventional English 
translation ‘gnosis’. The word nafs (pi. anfus or nufus) can be used to mean ‘self’, ‘person or ‘soul’, 
according to context. In the Qur anic verses translated in this volume, the word ‘soul’ has mostly 
been employed for nafs. In the translation of the passages of commentary we have translated nafs 
as ‘soul’ in those contexts where Tustari seems to imply more generally the spiritual, immaterial 
and immortal part of the human being. However, we have used the word ‘self’ for nafs in the more 
numerous instances where Tustari designates different levels and aspects of the nafs within the 
human being, as, for example, the ‘spiritual self’ (nafs al-ruh ) ‘natural self’ (nafs al-tab c ), ‘evil-inciting 
self’ (nafs ammara bi’l-su’) and so on. The all-important word tawhid meaning literally ‘making or 
understanding as one’, we have translated as either ‘attesting to’ or ‘professing God’s oneness’, when 
Tustari appears to imply an active commitment to belief in the oneness of God, or ‘realising God’s 
oneness’, when he seems to imply by tawhld a more profound mystical experience of God’s oneness. 

We have retained the masculine gender in translating verbs and pronouns, assuming them to 
be intended inclusively. Likewise in the Introduction to the Translation, the use of the masculine 
gender or the terms ‘man’ or ‘mankind’ is intended to be inclusive of both genders. 

The translation has employed the transliteration system used by the International Journal of 
Middle East Studies ( IJMES ). The td' marbuta has been rendered -a in the presentation of Arabic 
equivalents, when the word is not in the construct state (e.g. haqiqa), but -at in the construct form 
(e.g. haqiqat al-iman). Only the names of less well-known places have been transliterated. Standard 
abbreviations have been used for titles of encyclopaedias: e.g. EP for the Encyclopaedia of Islam 
(Second edition); Elr for the Encyclopaedia Iranica-, and EQ for the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an. 
The abbreviation of journal titles is as in the Index Islamicus. The honorific ‘may God bless him and 
grant him peace’ (salla’ Lldhu c alayhi wa’l-salam), which traditionally follows the mention of the 
Prophet, has been represented as (it) in the translation; while the honorific ‘peace be upon him, or 
them ( c alayhi/ c alayhim al-salam) following the mention of other prophets is represented as (843, 8s3). 
The traditional honorific for ‘may God be pleased with him, her or them’ (radiya’Llahu c anhu/hd/ 
hum/huma) following the mention of others is presented as (4», %>, * ). When cross-referencing in 
the footnotes, we have referred to the Introduction to the Translation as IT and the Introduction 
to the Commentary as IC; cross references to other notes appear by page and note number. Within 
Qur anic quotes, square brackets indicate a word or phrase (additional to the Qur anic text) that has 
been added to clarify the meaning; parentheses indicate that a part of the Qur anic text has been 
added that is not in the Tafsir to provide necessary context for the reader. 

In conclusion, we would like to add that the Tafsir al-Qur'dn aUazim does not represent the 
entirety of Quranic interpretations attributed to Tustari; a large number of other comments in his 
name are included in Sulami’s Haqd'iq al-tafsir, as well as in Sulami’s supplement to this work, the 
Ziyadat haqd'iq al-tafsir. We had considered the idea of including the translation of these comments 
as an appendix to the present publication, but decided that this, in itself no small undertaking, 
would be better attempted once Professor Bowering’s critical edition of the Haqd iq al-tafsir has 
been published. 


xiii 



Introduction to the Translation 


i. Sahl al-Tustari’s Spiritual Formation and his Teachers 1 

S ahl b. c Abd Allah al-Tustarl was probably born in 203/818 in Tustar (pronounced in Persian as 
Shushtar) in Khuzistan, south-western Iran, and it is here that he spent the early years of his 
life. 2 When still a young boy, he was introduced to Sufism by his maternal uncle Muhammad b. 
Sawwar, and at the age of seven begged his uncle to allow him to wear the patched frock ( muraqqaf ) 
— an indication that he had been initiated into the mystical path. 3 Sahl would rise in the early hours 
and watch his uncle performing his nightly vigil. 4 It was his uncle who initiated Sahl into the Sufi 
practice of remembrance of God (dhikr Allah), when one night he told him to recite inwardly with- 
out moving his tongue the words, ‘God is with me, God is watching over me, God is my Witness 
(Allahu ma c i, Allahu nazirl, Allahu shahidl)’. To begin with, Sahl’s uncle told him to recite these 
words three times. Then, when Sahl reported to him that he had done this, he instructed him to 
recite the words seven times every night, and when Sahl had accomplished this, he finally increased 
the number to eleven times each night, urging the young Sahl to continue this practice every day 
until he went to his grave, and explaining to him that he would derive great benefit from them in 
this world and the next. Tustarl relates that he soon experienced from this practice a sweetness 
( haldwa ) in his heart, and he states that after continuing the practice for two years, this sweetness 
was felt in his innermost being or ‘secret’ ( sirr ). His uncle later said to him, ‘Sahl! If God is with 
someone, and beholds him and watches over him, can he then disobey Him? You should never do 
so.’ 5 This teaching concerning the remembrance of God that his uncle had instilled in him had a 
profound influence on Tustarl, and was to become a cornerstone of his mystical doctrine, as we 
shall see. Muhammad b. Sawwar also imparted to his nephew some instruction in Qur anic exegesis, 
and hadlth . 6 Little is known about Muhammad b. Sawwar s spiritual background other than that 
he may have had some connection to Ma c ruf al-Karkhl (d. 200/815), whom, according to Tustarl, 
he once described as ‘one of the significant masters and spiritual forbears’. 7 


1 For the first four sections of this introduction, I am indebted to the excellent study on Sahl al-Tustari by Gerhard Bower- 
ing, The Mystical Vision of Existence in Classical Islam: The Qur'anic Hermeneutics of the Sufi Sahl at-Tustari (d. 283/896) 
(Berlin and New York, 1980), as well as the PhD thesis of M. K. I. Gaafar, ‘The Sufi Doctrine of Sahl al-Tustari, with a 
Critical Edition of his Risalat al-huruf ’ (Cambridge University, 19 66). For the remaining sections of the Introduction, 
my main source has been the Tafsir itself. 

2 An alternative date of 200/815 is given in the sources, but both Bowering and Gaafar appear to favour the later date of 
203/818 as more likely. 

3 c Abd Allah al-Ansarl, Tabaqat al-siifiyya (Kabul, 1961), p. 116. 

4 Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, al-Risalat al-QushayriyyafiHlm al-tasawwuf( Cairo, 1966) p. 83; trans. Alexander D. Knysh 
as QushayrTs Epistle on Sufism (Reading, 2007), p. 33. 

5 Ibid, pp. 83-4. 

6 In the Tafsir Tustarl quotes quite a number of hadlth transmitted to him by his uncle Muhammad b. Sawwar. 

7 Abu c Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, Tabaqat al-sufiyya (Leiden, i960), p. 74. 


XV 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Even as a child, Tustari showed a strong inclination to lead an ascetic, solitary and contempla- 
tive life. 8 He attended lessons with a Quban teacher only on the condition that he should be allowed 
to return home after one hour lest his spiritual concentration ( himma ) be dissipated. 9 It was said 
that he lived on barley bread alone until the age of twelve. 10 At the age of thirteen, he experienced 
a spiritual crisis in the form of a profound question that persistently troubled him. He requested 
that he should be allowed to travel to Basra to discover whether any of the learned men of that city 
would be able to answer his question. Finding no one who was able to help him there, he travelled 
on to the island of /Abbadan (in present-day south-western Iran), where a famous ribat or spiritual 
refuge and retreat is said to have been established by followers of Hasan al-Basri. It was here that 
Tustari met Abu Habib Hamza b. c Abd Allah al- c Abbadani, who was at last able to provide him with 
an answer to his question. * 11 He remained with Abu Habib for some time, in order to benefit from 
his knowledge and become trained in the ways of Sufi adab, that is, the disposition and modes of 
conduct proper to the mystical path. 12 It was also in "Abbadan, Tustari relates, that one night he saw 
the words: God, there is no god save He, the Living, the Eternal Sustainer [2:255], written in green 
light on one line across the sky from East to West. 13 

After this period of training under a spiritual master, Tustari returned to his native town of 
Tustar, where for some twenty years he mainly lived a solitary life, subj ecting himself to exceptionally 
rigorous ascetic disciplines with periods of sustained and severe fasting — indeed, he is cited many 
times in Sufi literature as exemplifying the benefits of hunger and fasting. The following account 
is taken from the Risdla of Qushayri: 

Then I returned to Tustar. By that time, my diet had been reduced to the point that [my people] 
would buy barley for me for a dirham, grind it, and bake it into bread for me. Every night about 
dawn, I would break my fast with merely an ounce [of that bread], without salt or condiment. 
The dirham lasted a year for me. After that, I resolved to break my fast once every three days, 
then once every seven days, then once every twenty-five days. I continued this practice for 
twenty years. 14 

Although based in Tustar during this period, after a fewyears Tustari did make another journey 
away from his home town, performing the pilgrimage to Mecca in the year 219/ 834. According to some 
reports, it was at Mecca that he first encountered Dhu 1 -Nun al-Misri (d. 245/860). 15 It is not known 
whether or not Tustari formally became a disciple of Dhu 1 -Nun, staying with him and remaining 
in service to him for a period of time, but there is little doubt that a strong spiritual association was 
established between the two mystics. 16 One report does state that Tustari travelled to Egypt to visit 
Dhu 1 -Nun, where the latter taught him about the nature of true trust in God ( tawakkul ), which 
is in fact one of the key doctrines that Tustari expounds in his Qur an commentary. 17 Moreover, a 


8 Qushayri, Risdla, p. 84. Farid al-Din c Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya J (Tehran, 1992), p. 306. 

9 Qushayri, Risdla, p. 84; c Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya ?, p. 305. 

10 Qushayri, Risdla, p. 84; c Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya ?, p. 306. 

11 According to Ibn c ArabI, Tustari s question related to the heart and whether or not it prostrated before God. The answer 
he was given was, ‘Yes, it does, forever.’ Muhyi al-Din Ibn c ArabI, al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya (Beirut, 2007), vol. 1, p. 101; 
vol. 2, p. 164; vol. 3, pp. 26 and 119-20. 

12 Qushayri, Risdla, pp. 84-5. 

13 This is mentioned in Tustari’s commentary on 2:255. 

14 Qushayri, Risdla, p. 85; trans. Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 55. 

15 Sulami, Tabaqat, p. 199; Abu Nu c aym al-Isfahani, Hilyat al-awliya J (Cairo, 1932-8), vol. 10, p. 190; Qushayri, Risdla, p. 
83- 

16 Both Ansari, Tabaqat, p. 113, and following him Nur al-Din c Abd al-Rahman Jami, Nafahat al-uns min hadarat al-quds 
(Tehran, 1991), p. 66, refer to Tustari as a disciple or pupil ( shagird ) of Dhu 1-Nun. While, as Bowering reports, SanTani 
and Ibn al-Athir both describe Tustari as having ‘associated with’ ( sahiba ) Dhu’l-Nun. See Bowering, Mystical Vision, 
p. 50, who cites c Abd al-Karim b. Muhammad al-SanTani, Kitab al-Ansab, facsimile edition (Leiden, 1912), f. 106b and 
Tzz al-Din c Ali b. Muhammad Ibn al-Athir, al-Lubabft tahdhib al-ansab (Cairo, 1929-67), vol. 1, p. 176. 

17 The report is to be found in a work compiled by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti on Dhu’l-Nun’s life and teaching, published by 
Arthur J. Arberry as ‘A Biography of Dhul-Nun Al-Misri,’ in M. Ram and M. D. Ahmad, c Arshi Presentation Volume 


XVI 


Introduction to the Translation 


report in the Kitab al-Luma c of Abu Nasr al-Sarraj (d. 378/998) indicates that Tustari certainly held 
for Dhu’l-Nun a deference akin to that which a disciple would traditionally hold for his master, 
for when asked why in earlier years he had refrained from teaching, he answered: ‘I did not like 
to engage in discourse concerning mystical knowledge as long as he [Dhu’l-Nun] was alive, out of 
reverence and respect for him.’ 18 

Later, both the philosopher/mystic Shihab al-Din Yahya Suhrawardi Maqtul (d. 587/1191), and 
Ibn Arab! (d. 638/1240) were to assume in different ways a definite transmission of knowledge 
from Dhu 1 -Nun to Tustari. Suhrawardi linked the two mystics not only to each other, but to the 
Hermetic tradition. He explained that of the two currents of ancient wisdom which together formed 
the basis of his ‘Philosophy of Illumination (Hikmat al-ishraq ), the current which he called the 
‘Pythagorean leaven, that is, the branch of Greek/Pythagorean wisdom that had been transmitted 
through Hermes, had come down to Dhu’l-Nun and from him had passed to Tustari and his ‘party’, 
whence it had been transmitted to the East. 19 According to Ibn "Arabi, both Tustari and Junayd had 
derived mystical teachings from Dhu’l-Nun, as well as from other mystics. 20 A comprehensive study 
of the sayings and teachings of Dhu’l-Nun al-Misrl, and a careful collation between these and the 
corpus of sayings collected from Tustari is required before the extent and nature of influence of 
Dhu’l-Nun on Tustarl’s thought can be ascertained. 

Suhrawardi was not alone in linking both Dhu’l-Nun and Tustari to the Hermetic tradition, 21 
and there is at least some circumstantial evidence to support this. Dhu’l-Nun was born and brought 
up in Ikhmim, Upper Egypt, a major centre of Hermeticism in the Graeco-Egyptian world. 22 Ibn 
Nadim names him as being among the philosophers who spoke about the art of alchemy, and two 
works on alchemy, now no longer extant, were said to have been written by him under the guidance 
of the famous alchemist, Jabir b. Hayyan (d. ca 200/815). 23 Yet the numerous sayings in the name of 
Dhu’l-Nun that have been preserved in the works of Sufism are entirely concerned with the mystical 
path. 24 Dhu’l-Nun was known as ‘the leader (imam) among the Sufis’, 25 and is said to have been the 
first mystic to have made a distinction between allusion ( ishdra ) and outward expression ( Hbara ), 
as well as devising the concept of mystical states and stations. 26 As for Tustari, one anecdote cer- 
tainly indicates that he had knowledge of alchemy, 27 and he included both alchemy and astronomy 


(New Delhi, 1965), pp. 11-27. 

18 Abu Nasr c Abd Allah b. c AlI (al-Tusi) al-Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c ft’l-tasawwuf (London and Leiden, 1914), p. 181. 

19 The ‘Khusrawan leaven, on the other hand, was transmitted into Islamic mysticism through Abu Yazid Bistami (d. 
261/874), Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj (d. 309/922) and Abu al-Hasan Kharaqani (d. 425/1029). See Shihab al-Din Yahya 
al- Suhrawardi, Kitab al-Masari wal-mutarahat, in Henri Corbin, Opera Metaphysica et Mystica (Istanbul, 1945), vol. 1 
p. 502b For other references see Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 52. 

20 Ibn c Arabi, Futuhat, vol. 1, p. 188. 

21 For example, the philosopher and historian Abu al-Hasan al-Qifti (d. 646/1248), in his Ta’rtkh al-hukama\ states that 
Dhu 1 -Nun was well-versed in alchemy and the secret hermetic sciences, and mentions both Sahl al-Tustarl and al- 
Harith al-Muhasibl as being exponents not only of the esoteric knowledge associated with Sufis, but also of the legacy 
of the second/eighth-century alchemist and philosopher Jabir b. Hayyan (d. ca 200/815). See al-Qifti, Ta'rlkh al-hukama' 
(Leipzig, 1903), pp. 160 and 185. For other examples see Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 53-4. 

22 See Garth Fowden, The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Pagan Mind (Cambridge, 1996), and especially 
pp. 120-6 on Zosimus of Ikhmim; and Peter Kingsley, Ancient Philosophy, Mysticism and Magic (Oxford, 1995), p. 389. 

23 Ibn al-Nadim, Fihrist (Leipzig, 1871-2), pp. 358 and 355; cf. Louis Massignon, Essai sur les origines du lexique technique 
de la mystique musulmane (Paris, 1922), p. 207. 

24 See, for example, sayings of Dhu’l-Nun cited in Annemarie Schimmel’s Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill, NC, 
1975), pp. 42ff; and Margaret Smith, Studies in Early Mysticism in the Near and Middle East (London and New York, 
1931), PP- i 9 iff and 23off. 

25 JamI, Nafahat al-uns, p. 28, citing Khwaja c Abd Allah Ansari. 

26 Ibid, pp. 27-8. It is also worth mentioning that Dhu’l-Nun is said to have studied with Imam Malik. Moreover, under 
the rule of the Caliph al-MaYnun he was persecuted for his belief in the uncreated Qufan. Again, see Nafahat al-uns, 
p. 27. 

27 Sarraj, Kitab al-Lumtf, pp. 319 and 326ff; Qushayri, Risala, p. 677. On the death of a person named Ishaq b. Ahmad 
(evidently an alchemist who had repented and then become Tustari’s disciple), Tustari entered his cell and found some 
alchemical materials there, a lump of gold, a lump of silver and two bottles containing red and yellow liquids. Tustari 


XVII 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


or astrology in his categorisation of four branches of knowledge, comprising: al-tibb (medicine), 
al-nijama (astronomy/astrology), al-diyana (religion) and al-klmiycb (chemistry/alchemy). 28 Among 
the works attributed to Tustari is an astrological chart, known as a ZaHrja which, if it ever existed, 
has not survived. 29 An extant treatise on the significance of the letters of the alphabet is attributed to 
him, known as Risalat al-huruf and Tustari is reported to have commiserated with another mystic, 
Abu c Abd Allah al-Husayn b. MakkI al-Subayhl, who was being persecuted for his knowledge of 
‘the divine names and attributes and of the science of the letters’ ( Him al-asmcb wal-sifdt wa Him 
al-huruf). 30 However, the anecdote which shows Tustari’s knowledge of alchemy also implies that 
he did not see fit to practice it himself. 31 His treatise on letters is not concerned with the sciences of 
jafr or abjad 32 but is concerned with the cosmological symbolism of the letters. 33 Again, it can be 
said that the examination of Tustari s tafslr and other works attributed to him, as well as the corpus 
of his sayings that have been preserved in the works of later Sufis, shows the essentially mystical 
nature of his thought. 34 

It is worth bearing in mind that during the second and third centuries of the Hijra, there was 
considerable interest in the different traditions of science and wisdom that had been preserved and 
were now being translated from Greek, Syriac and other languages into Arabic, especially in the 
Fertile Crescent. 35 Dhu 1-Nun had grown up in a centre of Graeco- Alexandrian learning, and Tustari 
not far from Jundishapur, which had been a great centre for the translation of medical and other 
scientific texts. Thus it is no surprise that these two mystics should have been acquainted with, and 
possibly have drawn upon, the rich and diverse sources of knowledge that were accessible to them. 
It appears that at this time there may have been a particular intellectual fluidity, with boundaries of 
knowledge being less sharply drawn between Sufism other streams of thought. What is remarkable 
is not the fact that these early mystics should have been in contact with, or have drawn upon, such 
sources of knowledge, but rather the way in which aspects of this knowledge, and terms in which 


threw the gold and silver into the River Tigris, and poured the bottles of liquid onto the ground, at the same time ex- 
plaining to the disciple who was with him, Muhammad b. Salim, how the elixir of those liquids could transmute copper 
and lead into gold and silver. 

28 Kalam Sahl, MS Kopriilu, 727, f. 64a. 

29 See Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 54, citing Ibn Khalduns Kitab al-Ibar (Beirut, 1961), vol. 1, p. 2o6f, and a much later 
work of Isma c il Pasa al-Baghdadl (d. 1338/1920), Hadiyat al-ariftn (Istanbul, 1951-5), vol. 1, p. 412. 

30 This is recorded in Sarraj’s Kitab al-Luma c . See Arthur J. Arberry’s publication of lacunae from the Luma c , entitled Pages 
from the Kitab al-Luma c (London, 1947), p. 9. 

31 As can be seen from the story related in n. 28 above. This is not to say that mystics in general, and Muslim mystics in 
particular, were necessarily opposed to alchemy, which was rich in symbolism and could even be practised as a spiritual 
discipline. On the spiritual dimensions of alchemy, see Fowden, Egyptian Hermes. On Sufism and alchemy, see Pierre 
Lory, Alchimie et mystique en terre d’Islam (Lagrasse, 1989). Tustari’s objection may have been to its practice purely in 
material terms. Interestingly, we find him using the language of alchemy in the Tafslr. 

32 On the science of divination according to the numerical values of the letters in the Qurian, see T. Fahd, ‘Djafr,’ El 2 , vol. 
11, p. 375 (although Fahd does not make a clear distinction betweenjq/f and the cosmological and metaphysical specula- 
tions on the letters made by mystics); Azartash Azarnoosh, Abjad’, trans. R. Gholami, Encyclopaedia Islamica, vol. 1, p. 
339 - 

33 See Gaafar’s doctoral dissertation, which includes an edition, translation and commentary on Tustari’s Risalat al-huruf. 
The treatise was subsequently published along with other works ascribed to Tustari in idem (Muhammad Kamal Ibrahim 
Ja c far), Min al-turath al-Tustarl al-suft: dirasa wa tahqlq (Cairo, 1974-), vol. 1. See also Pilar Garrido Clementes article, 
‘El Tradado de las Letras (Risalat al-huruf) del Sufi Sahl al-Tustarl’, Anuario de Estudios Filologicos 29 (2006), pp. 87-100, 
which comprises a discussion and Spanish translation of the treatise; and idem, ‘Estudio, Traduccion y edicion de las 
obras de Ibn Masarra de Cordoba: la Ciencia de las Letras en el Sufismo’, PhD thesis (University of Salamanca, 2007). 

34 That is to say, discussions of a theological and ethical nature are mainly centred on Tustari’s vision of the spiritual purpose 
of man’s existence, as has been discussed by both Bowering and Gaafar in their comprehensive studies of the teachings 
of Tustari. 

35 On this subject see Richard Walzer, Greek into Arabic (Oxford, 1962); Franz Rosenthal, The Classical Heritage in Islam, 
translated from the German by Emile and Jenny Marmorstein (London, 1992); Dimitri Gutas, Greek Wisdom Literature 
in Arabic Translation (New Haven, CT, 1975); idem, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (2nd-4th/8th-ioth centuries) (London, 
1998); and idem, Greek Philosophers in the Arabic Tradition (Aldershot, 2000). 

xviii 


Introduction to the Translation 


they were expressed were assimilated, and integrated by them, so as to become part of the language 
they used to expound their doctrines. 36 


ii. Tustar! as Spiritual Master, and his Disciples 

According to Tustari’ s own statement quoted above, he began teaching after the death of Dhu 1 -Nun, 
in the year 245/860. At this time he must have begun teaching publicly, that is, to a larger group 
of followers, though it is possible that he had already been imparting instruction to those of his 
disciples who were closest to him, such as Muhammad b. Salim (d. 297/909), who claimed to have 
been with him for his whole life. 37 Sometime between the years 262/876 and 263/877, Tustari was 
forced to leave Tustar and flee to Basra along with his disciples. 38 Traditional sources are agreed that 
a local scholar, or at least someone claiming or purported to be a devout man of learning, roused 
the people against him. Both Sarraj and Farid al-DIn c Attar (d. before 617/1220) state that it was 
Tustari’s particular emphasis on the need for repentance ( tawba ) that was the focus of the scholars 
disapproval, 39 while according to a report quoted from SulamI, the antagonist made the accusation 
that Tustari was claiming to be visited by angels, spirits and devils with whom he had conversed. 40 
Tustari was, according to the different accounts, accused either of committing evil acts or of heresy, 
and driven out of the city. 41 

Once he had settled in Basra, Tustari’s life was not entirely free of controversy, for on one occa- 
sion, he was challenged by two Shaffl jurists, Abu Zakariyya al-Saji and Abu c Abd Allah al-Zubayri, 
who took objection to his statement: ‘I am the proof of God (hujj at Allah) for you in particular and 
for the people in general’, and went to question him as to whether he considered himself to be a 
prophet or a righteous saint. Tustari s response to their objections eventually led them to acknowl- 
edge his spiritual superiority. 42 Tustari made his home in Basra until his death in 283/896. He was 
apparently happily married and had at least one child. 43 

Tustari had numerous disciples, some of whom remained with him for many years, while others 
stayed only a short time. Among his long-standing disciples, the most important were: Muhammad 
b. Salim and the latter’s son Ahmad b. Salim (d. 356/967), both of whom transmitted and expounded 
numerous sayings and teachings of Tustari; Abu Bakr al-Sijzi who received permission to transmit 


36 One obvious example in the case of Tustaris Tafsir is his reference to red sulphur ( kibrit ahmar) ( Tafsir , 19:61). Many 
other examples could be found, such as his definition of different dispositions or natures ( taba'i c ) within the human 
being ( Tafsir , 12:53). On the diverse sources of terms assimilated into the mystical language of Mansur b. al-Hallaj, see 
Massignon, The Passion of al-Hallaj, trans. Herbert Mason (Princeton, 1982), vol. 3, pp. 6ff. 

37 According to Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c , p. 177, or ‘many years, ’ according to Qushayri, Risala, p. 654; while he was his disciple 
for between thirty and sixty years according Ansarl, Tabaqat al-sufiyya, p 258. 

38 For a discussion of the likely dates of Tustari’ s move to Basra see Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 58ff. 

39 Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c , p. 407. This is also mentioned among the lacunae from Sarraj s Luma Q in Arberry, Pages, p. 9, 
and in c Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya\ p. 306. The objection was to the fact that Tustari expressed the view that repentance 
(tawba) was a religious obligation (farida ), and that just as the sinner must repent of his sin, so also the obedient person 
( mut f) must repent of his acts of obedience. 

40 Ibn al-jawzl, Talbis Iblis (Cairo, 1950), p. 162. Perhaps this was a misrepresentation of Tustaris account of his encounter 
with a jinn, which is discussed below. 

41 Gaafar (dissertation, pp. 21-7) suggests other factors which may have aroused the opposition of the c ulama 3 in Tustar, 
such as the wide publicity concerning Tustari’s ‘miracles’ or charismata, some of his ‘wild and ambiguous utterances 
( shatahat ) and his continuous criticism of various classes of religious scholars, Qur’an reciters and ascetics. Bowering, 
however, conjectures that there may have been political reasons for his departure, for which see Bowering, Mystical 
Vision, pp. 59-63. 

42 Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 64, citing c Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha c ranI, Tabaqat al-kubra (Cairo, 1315/1897), vol. 1, p. 67; and 
Ibn al-Jawzi, Talbis Iblis, p. 204. Abu c Abd Allah al-Zubayri is also mentioned by Sarraj as having persecuted al-Subayhi 
(see above p. xviii and n. 30), the mystic with whom Tustari commiserated, and to whom he pointed out that people 
were not able to tolerate the knowledge they were speaking about. See Arberry, Pages, p. 9. 

43 Gaafar (dissertation, p. 136) notes, without citing any sources, that from Tustari’s description of the way that she brought 
up their son, it appears that his wife was also something of an ascetic. 


XIX 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Tustarl’s Tafslr in the year 275/888; and TJmar b. Wasil al- c AnbarI, who narrated anecdotes about 
Tustari and elucidated some of his Quran interpretations. Others who are named by the sources as 
direct disciples of Tustari include Husayn b. Mansur al-Hallaj, who became his disciple at the age of 
sixteen and stayed with him only two years, perhaps moving to Basra with Tustari, but then going on 
to join Junayds circle in Bagdhad; Hasan b. Khalaf al-Barbaharl (d. 329/941), a well-known Hanball 
theologian and jurist of Baghdad; Abu Muhammad b. Husayn al-Jurayri (d. 312/924), who went 
on to become one of of Junayds foremost disciples, supervising his circle after his death; and Abu 
al-Hasan b. Muhammad al-Muzayyin al-Tirmidhl (d. 328/939), who was also a disciple of Junayd. 44 

Tustaris disciples not only transmitted his teachings and aphorisms, they also related their 
own observations about their master’s spiritual states, as well as sayings in which Tustari himself 
described his mystical experiences. Many of these are included in the text of the Tafslr. Among them 
are reports of some miraculous events which Tustari either described to them, or they themselves 
witnessed. Abu Bakr al-Sijzi assumes Tustaris account of meeting a man who eats a pomegranate 
from Paradise, and his vivid description of how it tasted, to be an indication that Tustari himself 
had tasted the fruit. 45 TJmar b. Wasil relates how one night Tustari held his finger in the flame of a 
lamp for nearly two hours without feeling any pain. 46 Yet another anecdote tells of two men who 
came to visit Tustari after the afternoon prayer, and then mysteriously vanished. When Muhammad 
b. Salim enquired where they had gone, he replied that one of them prayed the sunset prayer in 
the East, and the other in the West. 47 Tustari himself describes his encounter and conversation 
with a jinn who was of such a great age that he had met both Jesus and Muhammad. 48 He was also 
famed for his intimacy with wild beasts and birds. In the Tafslr it is related that he kept a room in 
his house which he called the ‘room for predatory beasts’. The beasts would approach him, and he 
would admit them into that room, offer them hospitality, feed them some meat, and then let them 
go free. 49 He warned one of his young disciples that if he was afraid of predatory beasts he should 
not keep company with him. 50 Many other anecdotes recount different miraculous occurrences 
involving Tustari. 51 

However, Tustari did not pay any particular regard to these ‘miracles’ or rather, charismata. 52 
For example, when people remarked at having seen him walking upon water, he recounted to them 
an incident in which the muezzin of the mosque had rescued him from drowning once when he fell 
into a pool. 53 When asked how a person might reach the rank of such charismatic gifts, he replied, 
‘Whoever abstains from the world for forty days in true faith and sincerity, will have charismatic 
gifts ( kardmat ) manifested to him from God, Mighty and Majestic is He. So, if [such gifts] are not 
manifested to a person, it is due to the lack of true faith and sincerity in his renunciation.’ 54 Several 
anecdotes about Tustari illustrate his humility. For example, one day someone remarked to him, ‘O 


44 Other disciples and associates of Tustari are discussed in detail by Bowering, Mystical Vision , pp. 78-99. 

45 Tafsir, 2:25. 

46 Tafsir, 21:69. 

47 Tafsir, 114:4 

48 Tafsir, 72:1. 

49 Tafsir, 10:62; see also Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c , p. 316, where Sahl’s house was called ‘the house of predatory beasts’ (bayt 
al-sabu c ). 

50 Tafsir, 45:13. A similar anecdote (Qushayri, Risala, p. 447, c Attar, Tadhkira, p. 309) relates that a young visitor found a 
viper in the house and became afraid, whereupon Tustari warned him that no one reaches the reality of faith ( haqiqat 
al-iman) as long as he fears anything on the face of the earth. 

51 Other anecdotes about charismatic episodes connected with Tustari are cited in Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 68-71. 

52 The term charismatic gifts’ or charismata (translating karamat, sing, karama) is used here to distinguish it from other 
kinds of miracles defined in Arabic by the word ( mu c jizat , sing. mu c jiza). The former are associated with ‘saints’ or 
friends of God, while the latter are the preserve of prophets. On this subject see Josef W. Meri, The Cult of Saints among 
Muslims and Jews in Medieval Syria (Oxford, 2002), pp. 73-6 and Kitab Kasr al-shahwatayn, trans. Timothy J. Winter, 
Al-Ghazali on Disciplining the Soul and on Breaking the Two Desires (Cambridge, 1995), p. 97, n. A. 

53 Qushayri, Risala, p. 703; c Attar, Tadhkira, pp. 308-9. 

54 Tafsir, 45:13; c Attar, Tadhkira, p. 314. 


XX 


Introduction to the Translation 


Abu Muhammad! Look what [God] has done with you and how He has elevated you!’ But he was 
totally unaffected by these words and said, ‘It is He who is sought. He who is sought ! 55 Regarding 
his mystical knowledge, he is quoted as having said: 

Indeed, God willing, I have been granted wisdom and [knowledge of] the unseen which I was 
taught from His unseen secret ( min ghayb sirrihi ), and thus He sufficed me from the need for 
all other knowledge... and He completed what He had begun with me out of His grace and 
beneficence . 56 

This statement is an indication of Tustari’s constant awareness of his dependence on God, and of 
his perpetual consciousness of God’s presence, precisely the teaching that had been instilled in him 
by his uncle. Thus it is related that he said, ‘My state during the ritual prayer and before entering 
ritual prayer is the very same ’. 57 

Mention has been made of Tustari’s apparently extreme imposition of hunger and fasting on 
himself. But the sources indicate that this practice was for him not a matter of self-mortification; it 
was rather that, as Bowering has observed, he was wholly sustained by God . 58 Thus it is reported that 
when questioned on the subject of provision, Tustarl stated that the believer’s daily bread (qut) is 
God, his sustenance ( qiwdm ) is the remembrance of God, and his nourishment ( ghidha J ) is religious 
knowledge (Him ). 59 He certainly extolled the spiritual benefits of certain ascetic practices, as when 
he said, ‘God created the world and placed knowledge and wisdom in hunger, and ignorance in 
satiety ’. 60 He also recommended that his disciples lead a life of simplicity, as when he advised them: 
Let your food be barley, your sweetmeat dates, your condiment salt and your fat yoghurt. You 
should let your clothes be of wool, your houses be mosques, your source of light the sun, your 
lamp the moon, your perfume water, your splendour be in cleanliness, and your adornment 
wariness ( hadhr ) [of God ]... 61 

However, it is clear that he neither expected nor demanded that his disciples should attain the same 
level of abstinence as him. One of his disciples reports: 

Sahl used to intensify his ecstasy ( wajd ) for seventy days, during which he would not eat 
anything, while he would order his companions to eat meat once a week so that they would 
not become too weak for worship. However for him, when he ate he would become weak, and 
when he became hungry he would gain in strength. He would sweat during the severe cold of 
winter while wearing only one shirt . 62 
Tustari explained the principle as follows: 

One should always adopt hardship for oneself, but when giving counsel to others, one should 
choose what is bearable and easy. To do this is to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet, who, 
when confronted with a particular matter concerning the community, used to choose what 
was light and gentle, but when the matter concerned himself, would apply that which is hard- 
est and most severe . 63 

Moreover, Tustarl had some knowledge of medicine, yet it is reported that for thirty years he suf- 
fered from an illness which he used to treat in others, whilst not applying the treatment to himself . 64 

55 Tafsir, 19:61. 

56 Tafsir, 2:3. 

57 Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c , p. 293 . 

58 Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 56. 

59 Ibid, citing Abu Talib al-Makkl, Qut al-qulubft mu c amalat al-mahbub, 2 vols. (Beirut, 1997), vol. 2, p. 282. 

60 Tafsir, 7:31. 

61 Tafsir, 7:172. 

62 Tafsir, 15:3. 

63 Kalam Sahl b. Abd Allah, MS Koprolii 727, 51a; ed. Gaafar (Ja c far), Min al-turath al-Tustari, vol. 2, p. 156. This was also 
the principle which Tustari followed with regard to the practice of total trust in God ( tawakkul ) and earning ( kasb ), for 
which see, for example, his commentary on 25:58 in the Tafsir. 

64 Mu c arada, MS Koprolii 727, f. 236b, 206; Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c , pp. 203-4. See also Qushayri, Risala, pp. 682, 704. 


XXI 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Towards the end of his life he became weakened both by this illness and by the effects of age, to the 
point that he could not get up from where he was sitting. Even so, Sarraj reports that when it came 
time for prayer, he would stand upright like a pole in the prayer niche. 65 Concerning his qualities, 
Abu Bakr al-Sijzi relates: 

It was his way and his conduct to be full of gratitude and remember [God] a great deal. He was 
also constant in observing silence and reflection. He would dispute little and was of a generous 
spirit. He led people through his good character, mercy and compassion for them, and by giv- 
ing good counsel to them. . .Truly God filled his heart with light, and made his tongue speak 
with wisdom. . .If it wasn’t for the fact that nobody can be valued alongside the Companions 
because of their companionship and witnessing [of the Prophet |j], then one would say that 
he was as one of them. He lived a praiseworthy life and died as a stranger in Basra, may God 
have mercy upon him. 66 

After his death, Tustarl’s close circle of disciples divided broadly into two groups. Abu Muhammad 
al-Jurayri and Abu al-Hasan al-Muzayyin went to Baghdad and entered the circle of Junayd’s disciples. 
Hasan al-Barbaharl and Umar b. Wasil also went to Baghdad, and are known to have preached in 
the Hanball quarter of the city. The sources indicate that all these disciples eventually moved to, or 
spent a period in Mecca, where they would have disseminated Tustarl’s teachings among the com- 
munity of renunciants ( zuhhad ) and ‘metics’ ( mujawirun ) who chose to live close to the Sanctuary. 67 
Muhammad b. Salim and his son Ahmad b. Salim, on the other hand, remained in Basra, where 
they assembled a group of associates ( ashab ) around them, who came to be known as the Salimiyya. 
Some teachings of this so-called ‘group of Sufi theologians’, 68 were later denounced by the Shlrazi 
Sufi Ibn Khafif (d. 371/981), 69 the Hanball theologian, Abu Ya c la b. al-Farra 1 (d. 458/1065), 70 and 
following the latter, the Hanball Sufi c Abd al-Qadir al-JIlani (d. 561/1167). 71 Some of these points 
may well amount to misreadings of sayings attributed Tustarl and his followers, such as the words: 
God has a secret; if He were to make it manifest, the divine providence would be rendered null. 
The prophets have a secret; if they were to make it manifest, prophethood would be rendered null. 
The learned have a secret; if they were to make it manifest, knowledge would be rendered null. 72 


65 Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c , p. 155; c Attar, Tadhkira, p. 309. 

66 Tafslr, 10:62. 

67 See Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 88ff. for sources. 

68 According to the geographer al-Maqdisi (d. 380/990), the Salimiyya were a group of popular preachers and ascetic Sufi 
theologians’ at Basra. See c Abd Allah Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Maqdisi (al-Muqaddasi), Ahsan al-taqasimfi ma c rifat 
al-aqallm (Leiden, 1877), pp. 126 and 130. They were also designated as a band of kalam scholars’ by c Abd al-Qahir al- 
Baghdadi in his al-Farq bayn al-firaq (Beirut, 1973), p. 247 (cited by Tobias Mayer, ‘Theology and Sufism’, in Timothy J. 
Winter, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology [Cambridge, 2008], p. 262). 

69 These were apparently compiled in a treatise that is no longer extant, al-Radd c ala Ibn Salim, for which see Bowering, 
Mystical Vision, p. 93, citing Fuad Sezgin, Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums (Leiden, 1967), vol. 1, p. 663; Massignon, 
Essai, p. 319 and Abu al-Hasan c Ali al-Daylami, Sirat-i Ibn-i Khafif, translated into Persian by Rukn al-DIn Yahya b. al- 
Junayd al-Shirazi, ed. Annemarie Schimmel (Tehran, 1984); see editor’s introduction, p. 32. 

70 In his al-MuTamad ft usul al-dln (Beirut, 1974), pp. 217-21. Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 94-5, has translated the 
eighteen objectionable points listed by Ibn al-Farra 3 . 

71 c Abd al-Qadir al-JIlani, al-Ghunya li-talibl tarlq al-haqq (Cairo, 1322/1904), vol. 1, pp io6ff. According to Bowering, 
Mystical Vision, p. 93, JUanl copied the list of Ibn al-Farra 3 , omitting five of the points. 

72 This, the fifth proposition in Ibn al-Farra 3 ’s list, may be traced to a saying cited in Makki’s Qut al-quliib, vol. 2, p. 149; and 
c Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha c ranI, Tabaqat al-kubra (Cairo, 2005), vol. 1, p. 111. The saying as it appears in Makki’s Qut al-qulub 
is attributed anonymously to ‘one of them’, and might be translated as follows: ‘The divine lordliness ( rububiyya ) has a 
secret which, if revealed, would render prophesy ( nubuwwa ) null; prophesy has a secret which, were it to be uncovered, 
would render knowledge (Him) null; and the knowers of God ( : ulama J biLlah ) have a secret which, were God to reveal 
it, would render the laws ( ahkam ) null. The sustenance of faith and continual existence of the Law [is ensured] through 
the withholding of the secret. Through it [God’s] management [of things] ( tadbir ) is implemented and on its basis the 
command[s] and prohibition [s] are ordered.’ I am grateful to Harith Bin Ramli both for locating this citation and for 
the translation of this extract, which is largely his. The statement is slightly reminiscent of part of Tustarl’s comment on 
12:108: ‘For sure, the inner truth [or secret, sirr] has not been revealed to people, for if it were disclosed to them then 
they would have perceived it. Nor have they witnessed [it], for if they had witnessed it, the whole matter would be over, 

xxii 


Introduction to the Translation 


Or: 

The [divine] volition ( irada ) is a branch of the divine will ( mashfa ), and the divine will is the 

root of the divine volition. The divine will is eternal and the volition is originated. 73 
Other points may amount to distortions of sayings of Tustari or his followers, or an exoteric, literal - 
ist reading of some esoteric sayings. The latter is likely, for example, in the case of the eighteenth 
proposition: ‘God is present in every place, and there is no difference between the divine Throne 
and other places.’ 74 

It was through the Salimiyya that Tustarl’s teachings reached Abu Talib al-Makkl (d. 386/996). 
MakkI grew up in Mecca, where he is said to have studied with the Sufi Abu Sa c Id al-A c rabI (d. 
341/952), who was of Basran origin and had been for a time in the circle of Junayd in Baghdad. 
Later MakkI went to Baghdad, where he studied for a while under Abu Nasr al-Sarraj, and then to 
Basra, where he spent time with the Salimiyya, although it is not known whether or not he ever met 
Ahmad b. Salim in person. Eventually he returned to Baghdad, where he ended his days. MakkI’s best 
known work, the Qut al-qulub (‘Nourishment of Hearts’), was to become one of the most important 
sources for the transmission and propagation of Tustarl’s sayings. 75 Bowering notes that Tustari is 
quoted some two hundred times in the work, while there are also sayings of Ahmad b. Salim. He 
refers to the former as ‘the master of our master’ ( shaykh shaykhind), which would indicate that he 
regarded Ahmad b. Salim as his master. 76 The Qut al-qulub was later copiously used as a source by 
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali in the composition of his Ihyal c ulum al-din 77 which has been described as 
‘an enlargement and popularisation of the Qut al-qulub ’, 78 and as ‘a brilliant reworking of this often 
dense and at times abstruse compendium on piety’. 79 It has recently been argued that another work 
attributed to MakkI, bearing the title Tim al-qulub (‘Knowledge or Science of Hearts’) is in fact a 
composition of unknown authorship dating from the fifth/ eleventh century. 80 

hi. Tustari’s Works 

Pre-modern bibliographical sources list some fourteen titles of different works ascribed to Tustari. 81 
However, only two of those listed works find equivalents of real significance among Tustarl’s extant 
works, namely his commentary on the Qur an and a work on the stories of the prophets ( Qisas 
al-anbiyd 1 ), though even then there is no precise correspondence between titles. 82 On the other hand, 


and that is a grave matter.’ 

73 The thirteenth proposition in Ibn al-Farra 3 s list, which may be compared to sayings of Tustari cited in Kalam Sahl b. 
c Abd Allah, ed. Gaafar, in idem (Ja c far), Min al-turath al-Tustari, Part 2, pp. 202 and 303; MS Koprulii 727, f. 72b and 142a. 
Gaafar has summarised this teaching as it appears in f. 72b, as follows: ‘God’s Will (or “Uncreated Will”, mash fa), is 
associated with His Knowledge, while God’s Volition (or “Creative Will”, irada ) is associated with His Omnipotence. 
The mashfa is the gate of Knowledge ( bab al-ilm ); the irada is the gate of Omnipotence (bab al-qudra ).’ 

74 Compare the statement in MakkI’s Qut al-qulub (vol. 2, p. 141), ‘. . .His proximity to the earth and to everything is as His 
proximity to the Throne. . 

75 MakkI, Qut al-qulub. Translated into German with introduction and commentary by Richard Gramlich as Die Nahrung 
der Herzen (Stuttgart, 1992-5). 

76 Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 25-7. 

77 Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, Ihya' c ulum al-din (Damascus, 1417/1997). 

78 Ali Hasan Abdel-Kader, The Life, Personality and Works of al-Junayd (London, 1947), p. xiv. 

79 Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Sufism: The Formative Period (Edinburgh, 2007), p. 88. The influence of MakkI’s work on Ghazall’s 
Ihya J is also discussed by Hava Lazarus -Yafeh, Studies in al-Ghazzalt (Jerusalem, 1975), pp. 34-5, and by Kojiro Nakamura, 
‘MakkI and Ghazall on Mystical Practices’, Orient 20 (1984), pp. 83-91. 

80 See Nasrollah Pourjavady, ‘Bazmanda-yi kitab-i al-Isharah waT-Hbarah-i Abu Sa c d KhargushI dar kitab-i Tim al-qulub\ 
Ma c arifis, no. 3 (1999) 34-41; now republished in idem, Pazhuhishha-yi Hrfani: just-u-ju dar manabf-i kuhan (Tehran, 
2006), pp. 64-72. 

81 For a full list of these see Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 8-12. 

82 The only pre-modern bibliographical source to allude to the Tafsir is the Tabaqat al-mufassirin of Shams al-DIn 
Muhammad al-Dawudl (d. 945/1538), who does not mention any title, but names Tustari as the author of a Qur 3 an 

xxiii 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


we find among extant works ascribed to Tustari, titles of several works not listed among the early 
bibliographical sources. Important among these are three collections of Tustari’s sayings that are 
preserved in a manuscript in the Kopriilu Library in Istanbul, MS, no. 727 (dated seventh century 
ah). They are entitled: Kitab al-Sharh wa’l-bayan li-ma ashkala min kalam Sahl (‘Explanation and 
Elucidation of Difficult Points in Sahl’s Doctrine ); Kitab al-Mifarada wa’l-radd c dla ahl al-firaq wa 
ahl al-dddwdfi’l-ahwal (‘Remonstrance and Refutation of the People of Factions and of the People 
of Pretensions Concerning Mystical States’); Kalimdt al-imam al-rabbani Sahl b. Abd Allah al-Tustari 
(‘Sayings of our Lordly Guide, Sahl b. c Abd Allah al-Tustari’). 83 Another extant work attributed to 
Tustari but not listed in the bibliographical works is the Risdlat al-huruf (‘Treatise on the Letters’), 
which appears to have been preserved in one manuscript only, held in the Chester Beatty collec- 
tion, CH. Beatty 3163/3. The treatise is a short work, most of which comprises a metaphysical and 
cosmological exposition of the relation between God, His names. His attributes and His creation, 
and the significance of the letters. 84 

Among those extant works ascribed to Tustari that are also mentioned in bibliographical sources 
is the Tafsir al-Qur'dn al-azim, which is preserved in six extant manuscripts and will be discussed 
in a separate section below. A work of not entirely unquestionable authenticity is the Lata’if al-qisas 
(‘Subtleties of the Stories [of the Prophets]’), which comprises 17 chapters, 11 of which relate subtle 
reflections on a particular prophet, beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad, while the 
remaining three chapters consist of Sufi anecdotes and sections on ritual prayer and the Basmala . 85 
Another title listed among Tustari’s works, the authenticity of which is less likely, is the Risdlat 
al-manhiydt (‘Treatise on Illicit Acts’), 86 while the Risdla fi’l-hikam wa’l-tasawwuf (‘Treatise on 
Wisdom and Sufism’), 87 represents a collection of Tustari’s sayings gleaned from Qushayri’s Risdla 
fi’l-tasawwuf. 

Aside from these works in Tustari’s name, many of his sayings have been preserved in the works 
of Sufism, among the most important being the Kitab al-Luma c of Abu Nasr al-Sarraj and the Qut 
al-qulub of Abu Talib al-Makki (mentioned above). Both of these writers had direct contact with 
the second generation of Tustari’s followers. Other early sources for Tustari’s sayings include the 
so-called manuals of Sufism, such as those of Kalabadhi, 88 Hujwiri 89 and Qushayri; biographical 
or hagiographical works such as the Tabaqdt al-sufiyya of Sulami (d. 412/1021), and the Hilyat 


commentary. The extant work on stories of the prophets bears the title Lata'if qisas al-anbiya ' and is preserved in MS 
Tal c at, mag. 283, whereas Hajjl Khalifa in his Kashf al-zunun (Leipzig, 1835), vol. 4, pp. 303 and 518, and Isma c il Pasha in 
his Hadiyat al- c arifin, vol. 1, p. 412, list a work entitled simply Qisas al-anbiya 3 . 

83 The first and third of these collections of sayings are also preserved in the Asad Library, MSS, 1623 and 3527 respectively. 
The content of these works is discussed by Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 12-6, and by Gaafar, dissertation, pp. 4iff. As 
was noted above, Gaafar has also edited and published these works in Gaafar (Ja c far), Min al-turath al-Tustari. 

84 Regarding the authenticity of this work, Bowering ( Mystical Vision, pp. 17-8) expresses the view that ‘the internal criteria 
do not go further than to prove a similarity of ideas’. Gaafar, however, argues for its authenticity in his dissertation, pp. 
77-9, as does Pilar Garrido Clemente in her article, ‘El Tradado de las Letras ’. A critical edition of this work is included 
in her PhD thesis cited above, n. 34. On the question of authenticity, we might also refer again to the report in Sarraj's 
Kitab al-Luma c mentioned above (Arberry, Pages, p. 9), where Tustari’s comments indicate that he was in sympathy 
with Subayhl who was known for his ‘knowledge of God’s names, attributes and the science of the letters’, precisely the 
subject matter of the Risdlat al-huruf. 

85 Bowering’s view is that external evidence would confirm Tustari’s authorship of the work, since Hajjl Khalifa not only 
lists a Qisas al-anbiya as among Tustari’s compositions, but also quotes the first sentence of the work, which exactly 
matches that of the manuscript. However, Bowering suggests that the internal evidence is not so strong, since, while 
some subject matter resembles that of the Tafsir, there are no particular sayings or passages corresponding to any mate- 
rial in other works ascribed to Tustari, or to his sayings in other Sufi sources. See Mystical Vision, pp. 16-17. 

86 The treatise is held in Tehran, Tehran Faculty of Law, 25ij. 

87 This treatise is held in Istanbul, Ayasofia 4128/4. 

88 Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Ishaq al-Kalabadhi, Kitab al-Ta c arrufli-madhhab ahl al-tasawwuf { Cairo, 1934); English trans., 
Arthur J. Arberry as Doctrine of the Sufis (Cambridge, 1935). 

89 c AlI c Uthman JullabI al-Hujwirl, Kashf al-mahjub (Tehran, 2004); references in the text are to the Tehran, 2004 edition; 
English trans., Reynold A. Nicholson as Kashf al-mahjub: The Oldest Persian Treatise on Sufism (London, 1911). 


XXIV 


Introduction to the Translation 


al-awliya ' of IsfahanI (d. 430/1038); 90 and other treatises, such as the Kitab c Atf al-alif al-maduf of 
Daylami (fl. 400/1000). 91 


iv. The Iaf sir al- Qur’an al-Azim 

Evidence suggests that Tustari’s Tafsir , like many other Sufi works of this period, was not a writ- 
ten composition of Tustarl’s hand, but was delivered orally by him to a circle of disciples, who 
preserved and transmitted it. At a later date the Tafsir was then compiled and written down, with 
some additions. 92 Although the earliest extant manuscripts of the Tafsir date to the ninth/fifteenth 
and tenth/sixteenth centuries, 93 the authorities cited by an anonymous scribe in the introduction 
of the original archetype of these manuscripts make it possible to date this archetype considerably 
earlier, to the mid-sixth/twelfth century. 94 However, since numerous comments cited in the name 
of Tustari by Abu c Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami in his Haqadq al-tafsir 9 * are identical word for word 
with comments in the Tafsir, it is possible that the latter already existed in written form at least by 
the late fourth/tenth or early fifth/ eleventh century. Since SulamI includes some comments ascribed 
to Tustari that are absent from the Tafsir, it may be assumed either that the former had derived 
these comments from a separate written or oral source, or that he was drawing comments from a 
larger version of the text. 96 

In his detailed analysis of the history, structure and compilation of Tustarl’s Tafsir, Bowering 
has identified three structural layers in its composition, marking stages in its compilation: the 
first comprises Tustari’s actual comments on the verses; the second includes a number of Tustarl’s 
aphorisms on mystical topics (usually those raised in the comments) as well as illustrative mate- 
rial taken from the stories of the prophets, probably added by Tustarl’s disciples; the third level 
represents further insertions into the text by later hands, and includes exegetical proof texts taken 
from the Qur'an and ahadith, the lengthy explanation of a poem, and anecdotes about Tustari. Two 
of Tustarl’s disciples who appear to have been the main compilers of the Tafsir, and who are most 
often named in the Tafsir, are Abu Bakr al-Sijzi and TJmar b. Wasil, while Muhammad b. Salim is 
also mentioned (as Ibn Salim), though only three or four times. 97 

The Tafsir includes comments on selected verses of all the suras of the Qur'an, amounting to 
comments on some 1000 verses in all. As Bowering has suggested, it is likely that Tustarl’s exegesis 
of the Qur'an was delivered during sessions in which the Qur'an was recited. 98 After the recita- 
tion of portions of the Qur'an, he would have commented on certain verses, or parts of the verses, 
according to meanings that he was moved to expound. In its present written form, the comments 
follow on from the verses, and, with a few exceptions (most notably in Surat al-Baqara and Surat 

90 IsfahanI, Hilyat al-awliya 1 . 

91 Abu al-Hasan c Ali al-Daylami, Atf al-alif al-maiuf c alal-lam al-ma c tuf (Cairo, 1962); French trans. by Jean-Claude 
Vadet as Le traite damour mystique dal-Daylami (Geneva, 1980); English trans. by Joseph N. Bell as A Treatise on 
Mystical Love (Edinburgh, 2005). For a detailed account of the respective importance of these works and many later 
Sufi works as sources for the Tustari tradition, see Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 18-42. 

92 For a detailed study of the history, authenticity, structure and compilation of Tustarls Tafsir, see Bowering, Mystical 
Vision, Chapter III. 

93 MS Gotha 529 is dated 825/1422, MS Fatih 638, 872/1422, while MS San c a 3 62 is dated 936/1530 and MS Fatih 3488, 965/1558. 
A full discussion of the MSS is given in Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 100-5. 

94 The two authorities mentioned are Abu Bakr al-Baladl (d. 504/1110) and his grandson Abu Nasr al-Baladl (d. after 
551/1156). See Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 107-8. 

95 Abu c Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, Haqa'iq al-tafsir, MS British Museum Or. 9433; ed. Sayyid Imran (Beirut, 2001). 

96 For a list showing the presence of comments on different verses of the Qur'an ascribed to Tustari in the Haqcfiq al-tafsir 
of SulamI, the Ara'is al-bayanft haqa'iq al-Qufan of Ruzbihan b. Abl Nasr Baqll (Lucknow, 1315/1898), al-Muwafaqat ft 
usul al-ahkam of Ibrahim b. Musa al-Shatibl (d. 790/1388), (Cairo, 1922), and al-Shifa 3 bi-ta c rifhuquq al-mustafa of Tyad 
b. Musa al-Qadl (d. 544/1149), (Damascus, 1972), as against Tustarls Tafsir, see Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 113-26. 

97 See Mystical Vision, pp. 128-35. 

98 Ibid, pp. i35ff. 


XXV 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Al c Imran), are arranged according to their conventional numbering. The nature of the exegetical 
content is varied, and includes exoteric interpretations which either provide additional information 
and context for the verses, or explain and expand upon their literal meaning," as well as comments 
that might be considered ethical in nature. 100 However, there is sufficient content of an esoteric 
nature for Tustari’s commentary to have been counted as part of the Sufi tradition of Qur anic 
exegesis. 101 It was, moreover, liberally used as a source for later Sufi commentaries, such as those 
of SulamI, MaybudI (fl. sixth/twelfth century) 102 and Ruzbihan Baqll (d. 606/1209). In addition 
to its exegetical content, the Tafslr al-Qur'dn al-azim includes other material of a largely esoteric 
nature, such as discussions of mystical topics which arise in the interpretations, anecdotes about 
earlier mystics and about Tustarl himself, and numerous aphorisms of Tustari concerning different 
aspects of the mystical path. 

v. TustarI’s Approach to Qur 3 an Interpretation 

Tustari’s Tafslr includes a number of traditions and statements which give us some idea of the 
principles underlying his interpretation of the Qur an. Several of these speak of different levels of 
meaning in the scripture, and among them are three quoted from Tustari himself, all of which are 
presented in the Introduction to the Commentary. 

The first is cited in the context of a discussion of the process of revelation: 

God sent down the Qudan in five instalments of five verses at a time: five clear verses ( muhkam ), 
five ambiguous verses ( mutashdbih ), 103 five concerning what is permissible ( halal ), five con- 
cerning what is prohibited ( haram ), and five parabolic verses ( amthal ). The believer who has 
gnosis ( mdrifa ) of God, Exalted is He, adheres to what is clear in it, believes what is ambiguous, 
holds as permissible that which it has made permissible, holds as prohibited that which it has 
prohibited and comprehends its similitudes, as He has said: . . . but only those understand them 
[ the similitudes] who know [29:43] — that is, those who have knowledge ( dim ) of God, Exalted 
is He, and especially those who have gnosis ( maWifa ) of Him. 104 
In the passage above, Tustari has indicated an esoteric understanding or gnosis (malrifa) of the 
similitudes ( amthal ) or parabolic verses of the Qudan. In a second statement he mentions knowledge 
of both the inner and outer levels of meaning in the Qur an, as when he states in the Introduction 
to the Commentary: 

...God has said, Mighty and Majestic is He, We have made it an Arabic Qur'an [43:3] — that 
is, we have expounded it in a clear Arabic tongue in the letters of the alphabet which God 
has clearly set forth for you, and by which you attain to knowledge of [its] inner ( bdtin ) and 
outward ( zdhir ) [meanings]. 105 


99 Comments of this type are too numerous to list, but we may cite here 5:83, 14:25, 42:7, 52:4 and 63:1 as examples. 

100 As, for example, in the commentary on 3:159, 7:56, 7:68 and 15:85, though it should be borne in mind that it is often 
difficult to make a watertight distinction between the ethical and the mystical. 

101 On Sufi hermeneutics see: Massignon, Essai sur les origines, trans., Benjamin Clark, Essay on the Origin of the Technical 
Language of Islamic Mysticism (Paris, 1997); Paul Nwyia, Exegese coranique et langue mystique (Beirut, 1970); Bowering, 
Mystical Vision , esp. pp. 135-42; ‘Sufi Hermeneutics and Medieval Islam’, Revue des etudes islamiques 55-7 (1987-8); pp. 
255-70; ‘The Light Verse: Quranic Text and Sufi Interpretation, Oriens 36 (2001), pp. 113-44; and ‘The Scriptural Senses 
in Medieval Sufi Qur'an exegesis’, in Jane D. McAuliffe et al., eds., With Reverence for the Word (Oxford and New York, 
2003), pp. 350-1; Pierre Lory, Les Commentaires esoteriques du Coran dapres c Abd al-Razzaq al-Qashani (Paris, 1980); 
Kristin Z. Sands, Sufi Commentaries on the Qur'an in Classical Islam (London and New York, 2006); Annabel Keeler, 
Sufi Hermeneutics: The Qur'an Commentary of Rashid al-Din Maybudi (Oxford, 2006), especially ch. 3; and ‘Sufi tafslr 
as a Mirror: QushayrI the murshid in his Lata'if al-isharat\ JQS 7 (2006), pp. 1-21. 

102 Abu al-Fadl Rashid al-Din Maybudi, Kashf al-asrar wa c uddat al-abrar (Tehran, 1952-60). 

103 The ‘clear’ ( muhkam ) and ‘ambiguous’ ( mutashdbih ) verses are mentioned in the Introduction to the Commentary and 
in 3:7. They will be discussed below, p. 4, n. 20. 

104 IC, p. 6. 

105 IC, p. 5. 


XXVI 


Introduction to the Translation 


Tustarl says more about the inner and outer levels of meaning in a passage earlier in his 
Introduction: 

Every verse of the Qur'an has four senses: an outward ( zdhir ) and an inward sense ( bdtin ), a 
limit ( hadd ) and a point of transcendency ( matlal ). The outward sense is the recitation and 
the inward sense is the understanding (fahm ) of the verse; the limit defines what is lawful and 
unlawful, and the point of transcendency is the hearts place of elevation ( ishrdf) [from which 
it beholds] the intended meaning, as an understanding from God, Mighty and Majestic is 
He (fiqhan min Allah c azza wajalla). The outward knowledge [of the Qur'an] is a knowledge 
[accessible to the] generality ( c dmm); whereas the understanding of its inner meanings and its 
intended meaning is [for] a select few ( khdss ) ... 106 
In this latter statement, Tustarl has indicated both that the inner meanings are intended for a 
select few, and that the understanding of these meanings comes ‘from God’. A similar principle is 
expressed when he states: 

Truly God has not taken as a friend (wall) one of Muhammad’s nation ( umma ) without teaching 
them the Qur'an, either in its outward or inner aspects. They said, ‘We know about its outward 
aspect, but what is its inner aspect?’ He replied, ‘That is its understanding (fahm); and it is its 
understanding that is intended.’ 107 

More than once in the Tafsir, Tustari warns against interpreting the Qur'an according to one’s 
own whims or desires (ahwd). Commenting on the words, As for those in whose hearts is deviation, 
they follow the ambiguous part, desiring sedition and desiring its interpretation [3:7], he glosses sedi- 
tion as ‘unbelief’, and interprets the words desiring its interpretation as a reference to ‘interpretation 
according to the desire of their lower selves’. Later in the commentary on this same verse [3:7], but 
this time on the words those rooted in knowledge, he cites a saying of c Ali b. Abl Talib: 

[Those rooted in knowledge] are the ones whom knowledge has protected from plunging [into 
the interpretation of the Qur’an] according to some whim (hawd) or with set arguments] 
(madruba), without [awareness of] the unseen [mysteries] (dim al-ghuyub). [This is] due to 
God’s guidance of them, and His disclosing to them His unseen secrets (asrdrihi al-mughayyaba) 
from within the treasure chests of knowledge. 

Along with the sense that the esoteric meanings and ‘unseen mysteries’ of the Qur'an are something 
precious that may be directly disclosed by God (to a certain chosen few, or His friends), Tustarl 
also conveys his awareness of the arcane, sometimes inexpressible nature of the inner meanings of 
the Qur'an, and the humbling sense that the Qur'an can never be fathomed. One example occurs 
in his commentary on the words, Say, ‘If the ocean were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, it 
would run dry...’ [18:109]: 

His Book is part of His knowledge, and if a servant were given a thousand ways of understand- 
ing each letter of the Qur'an, he would not reach the end of God’s knowledge within it. This 
is because it is His pre-eternal speech, and His speech is one of His attributes, and there is no 
end to any of His attributes, just as He has no end. All that can be comprehended of His speech 
is as much as He opens to the hearts of His friends. 

In another statement, he indicates that even were the mysteries of the Book to be fathomed, they 
are beyond expression or even allusion. The context is Tustarl’ s commentary on Abraham’s request 
for an increase in certainty, related in 2:40: 

The one who is close (qarib) [to God] has access to understanding (fahm), conjecture (wahm) and 
interpretation (tafsir). But the one who is closest (aqrab) is beyond understanding, conjecture 


106 IC, p. 2. An almost identical statement is cited by Sulami as a tradition of c Ali b. Abl Talib in the introduction to his 
HaqaHq al-tafsir. On this tradition and more generally on theories of four levels of meaning in the Qur'an, see Bowering, 
‘The Scriptural Senses’, pp. 346-75. On the levels of meaning in Qur'anic exegesis, see also A. Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics , 
pp. 69-81. 

107 IC, p. 7. 


XXV11 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


and interpretation, and what is beyond that cannot be contained by expression ( Hbara ) or 
allusion ( ishdra). m 

The statements cited above go some way to explaining the varied nature of the content of the Tafslr, 
and the often allusive, elliptical and even obscure style of the esoteric interpretations. However, some 
of this abstruseness may also be due to the fact that the comments were initially delivered orally as 
extemporary, inspired responses to the recited verses, such that the Tafslr was eventually compiled 
from the notes of disciples who were themselves probably already familiar with the teachings that 
Tustari was conveying through his exegesis. Indeed many of the aphorisms contained in the Tafslr, 
which Bhwering suggests were added later, may precisely have been added for the benefit of later 
aspirants in the circle of Tustarl’s disciples, who did not have this familiarity with his doctrines. 

The esoteric meanings which Tustari elicits from the Qur anic verses and expounds through 
his commentary were clearly intended to convey spiritual guidance and illumination. For the most 
part, they provide direct guidance designed to assist the seeker with progress on the spiritual path, 
and include: discussions of qualities and virtues to which the seekers should aspire; vices which 
they should avoid; knowledge about the inner make-up of the human being; and descriptions of 
mystical experience. Other interpretations of an esoteric nature comprise Tustari’s metaphysical 
and cosmological discussions, such as those of the Muhammadan Light, the covenant which God 
made in pre-eternity with all of humanity, known as ‘the Covenant of Alast’, and the miraculous 
Night Journey ( Isra 3 ) and Ascension ( Mi c rdj ) of the Prophet. 109 

These interpretations appear to derive, or spring from, the verses in different ways. 110 Often they 
arise as metaphorical or allegorical interpretations, as in Tustari’s commentary on the words, That 
you may warn [the people of] the mother of cities, and those around it... [42:7], which he interprets 
in the following manner: 

In its outward meaning, it [the mother of cities] refers to Mecca. In its inner meaning it refers 
to the heart, while those around it refer to the bodily members (jawdrih ). Therefore warn them, 
that they might safeguard their hearts and bodily members from delighting in acts of disobedi- 
ence and following [their] lusts. 

Another example of a metaphorical or allegorical interpretation occurs in his commentary on the 
words, and the sun and moon are brought together [75:9]: 

Its inner meaning is the following: the moon represents the light of the sight of the physical 
eye, which pertains to the natural self ( nafs al-tabf, and the sun represents the light of the sight 
of the eye of the heart, which pertains to the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh ) and the intellect ( c aql ). 
Or again, his commentary on the words, and the raised canopy [52:5], which he glosses as: 

The pleasing and pure act, through which no reward is sought except God, Exalted is He. 

In the first of these three comments, it is to be noted that Tustari has juxtaposed his exoteric and 
esoteric interpretations. This he does in numerous contexts, as in the following example, which 
comprises firstly an explanation at the literal level and then an esoteric interpretation of the words, 
By those sent forth in succession [77:1]: 

By this is meant the angels who are sent with the good of His command. ..In its inner meaning 
it refers to spirits of the believers which are sent inspiration ( ilhdm ) that is in accordance with 
the Book and the Sunna. 


108 This saying occurs as part of the long commentary on a poem which is cited in the commentary on 2:40. It is possible, 
therefore, that these are the words of Abu Bakr al-Sijzi, or whoever was commenting on the poem. It may nonetheless 
be said to reflect Tustari’s teachings. 

109 The content of these interpretations will be discussed in the section on Tustaris mystical teachings below. 

110 For a full discussion of Tustaris ‘method’ of Qur’an interpretation, see Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. i35ff. For a dis- 
cussion of the method of esoteric interpretation in Qushayrl’s Latcfif al-isharat (Cairo, 1968-71) and Maybudl’s Kashf 
al-asrar, see Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, pp. 81-90. 

xxviii 


Introduction to the Translation 


Another mode of esoteric interpretation takes the form of a discussion of the spiritual or ethical 
significance of a word mentioned in a verse, as for example when he comments on the words, So 
be forgiving with gracious forgiveness [15:85]: 

[One should be] without resentment ( hiqd ) or censure ( tawbikh ) after forgiving someone; this 
is to overlook [someone’s misdeeds] graciously (frad jamil). 

Sometimes these comments constitute Tustari’s reply to a question put to him about a succinct 
interpretation he has given, as when he glosses Jacob’s exhorting himself to comely patience [12:18] 
with the words ‘patience and contentment’, and when asked about the sign of this, replies, ‘It is not 
to regret what has happened’. When further asked how a person can attain comeliness of patience, 
he explains: 

By knowing that God, Exalted is He, is with you, and by the comfort of [the concomitant sense 
of] well-being. Patience may be compared to a bowl which has patience at the top and honey 
underneath. 

Another form of esoteric interpretation springs from what Bowering has termed ‘Qur anic 
keynotes’. 111 This is where a particular word or expression sets off a train of mystical thought or 
associations in the commentator. 112 The resulting interpretation may or may not bear any obvious 
relation to the context in which the ‘keynote’ word appears. We find it exemplified, for example, in 
Tustari’s commentary on the words, When God wishes to guide someone, He expands their breast to 
Islam [6:125], where the verb wishes ( arada , from the root r-w-d ) leads Tustarl into a discussion of 
the terms murid and murad, both drawn from the same root. This subject may already have been in 
his mind since he refers to an earlier verse in the same sura which mentions those who seek God’s 
countenance, and therefore already indicates the ‘aspirant’ or ‘one who seeks [God]’ (murid), while 
the ‘one who is [divinely] sought’ is picked up from the words, God wishes (or seeks): 

Truly God has distinguished between the one who seeks (murid) and the one who is [divinely] 
sought (murad), even though they are both from Him (min Hndihi). But He simply wanted 
to distinguish the elite (khdss) from the generality ( c umum), and so He singled out the one 
who is sought (murad) in this sura and others. He also mentioned the one who seeks (murid), 
representing the generality, in this sura in His words, Exalted is He: Do not drive away those 
who call upon their Lord, morning and evening, seeking His countenance [6:52]. 

Another example of an interpretation arising from a ‘keynote’ or association of ideas occurs in 
Tustari’s commentary on the words, If trouble should befall a man, he cries out to Us [ in supplication ], 
whether lying on his side. . . [10:12], which in their Qubanic context refer to people who are heedless 
of God, and call on Him only when they are afflicted. However, here Tustari is moved to speak of 
the true meaning of supplication, related to the verb translated as he cries out ( dala ): 

Supplication (dutf) is freeing oneself (tabarri) of everything save Him, Exalted is He. 

Given the complex nature of the doctrines expounded by Tustarl, the fact that they are some- 
times allusively expressed, and the fact that they are scattered throughout the pages of his Tafsir, 
the following sections will be devoted to a discussion of some of the key mystical teachings that are 
presented in the work. Striking in Tustari’s expositions is the extent to which he uses the imagery 
and metaphors of light, especially when discussing divinely- inspired knowledge and guidance. 


111 See Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 136-7. 

112 On this subject see also Nasrollah Pourjavady, ‘Lata 3 if-i Qur 3 anl dar majalis-i Sayf al-DIn Bakharzf, Ma c arif 18 (2001), 
pp. 3-24. 


XXIX 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


vi. Mystical Teachings 


A. The Qur’an and the Prophet 

Throughout the Tafslr, Tustarl emphasises the centrality and importance of the Qur'an and the Sunna 
or exemplary practice of the Prophet. In his view, the Qur'an and the Prophet together provide a 
complete source of guidance for humanity, as well as acting as mediators between God, the Ineffable 
and Transcendent One, and His creation. For example, in the Introduction to the Commentary, he 
draws on a Qur'anic metaphor used in 3:103, when he states that the Qur'an is ‘a rope ( habl ) between 
God and His servants’, and when asked to explain this definition he says: 

This means that they have no way to Him save through the Qur'an, and through understanding 
[all] that has been addressed to them therein concerning that which is required of them, as well 
as putting that knowledge into practice for God’s sake with complete sincerity, and following 
the exemplary way (sunna) of Muhammad M, who was sent to them. 113 
Tustari cites numerous traditions concerning the nature of the Qur'an, including a hadith of the 
Prophet which states, ‘The Qur'an is God’s wisdom ( hikma ) among His servants. Whoever learns 
the Qur'an and acts according to it, it is as if prophethood were incorporated within him, except 
that he does not receive revelation. . .’ He also repeatedly emphasises the importance of the Sunna, 
as when he says, ‘Mindfulness of God ( taqwd ) signifies the Sunna, and no obligatory act (fard) is 
complete without the Sunna’; 114 or again when he states, ‘All action is futile except that which is 
done with sincerity ( ikhlas ), and sincerity is not achieved except through adherence to the Sunna.’ 115 
The Sunna, he explains, has no limit, and this is explained as meaning: 

No one has fear like the fear of the Prophet M, and [the same goes for] his love ( hubb ), his 
longing ( shawq ), his abstinence (zuhd), his contentment ( rida ), his trust ( tawakkul ), and his 
[noble] characteristics ( akhlaq ). Indeed, God, Exalted is He, has said [of him]: ‘Assuredly you 
possess a magnificent nature [68:4] .’ 116 

Regarding the Qur'an’s role of mediation, Tustari cites a hadith according to which the Prophet 
describes the Qur'an as ‘an excellent intercessor whose intercession is accepted ( shdfi c mushaffaf, 
and a truthful advocate ( mahil musaddaq )’, 117 while of the Prophet’s mediating role he states, ‘ [God] 
has made the Emissary the most elevated and the greatest mediator ( wdsita ) between you and Him’. 118 

In the Introduction to the Commentary, Tustari shows how the Qur'an and the Prophet are 
inextricably linked. For example, he states, ‘God, Exalted is He, sent down the Qur'an to His Prophet, 
and made his heart a mine of His oneness and of the Qur'an’. 119 Both the Qur'an and the Prophet are 
also linked in being identified with light. Regarding the Qur'an, for example, Tustari states ‘God has 
made the Qur'an a light and has said: ...but We have made it a light by which We guide whomsoever 
We wish of Our servants’ [42:52]; and he understands the words ...and [those who] follow the light 
which has been revealed with him [7:157], to be a reference to the Qur'an, ‘of which the heart of the 
Prophet is the mine.’ 120 Tustari also describes the Prophet’s breast (sadr) as a light, and Abu Bakr 
al-Sijzi explains this as meaning: ‘it is a repository of light from the divine Substance (jawhar), which 
is the original locus of light within the breast.’ 121 The star of piercing brightness [86:3] is interpreted 


113 IC, p. 5. 

114 Tafsir, 5:2. 

115 Tafsir, 4:77. 

116 Tafsir, 18:30. The explanation is given by Matta b. Ahmad who, according to Bowering was also known as Ahmad b. 
Matta, and although not listed as one of Tustari s disciples, appears to have been close to him. 

117 IC,p. 3- 

118 Tafsir, 14:34. 

119 IC, p. 3. 

120 IC, pp. 4ff. 

121 IC, p. 2. 


XXX 


Introduction to the Translation 


by Tustarl as an allusion to the heart of the Prophet, ‘resplendent with the realisation of God’s one- 
ness, the upholding of His transcendence, constancy in the practices of remembrance, and in the 
contemplative witnessing of the Omnipotent’; while in his commentary on the verse, By the dawn 
[89:1], Tustari explains that its inner meaning refers to Muhammad M, ‘from whom the lights of 
faith, the lights of acts of obedience and the lights of the two worlds of existence gushed forth’. 

Tustari’s teachings concerning the Qur'an and the Prophet have theological and metaphysical, 
as well as cosmological, dimensions (as can be seen in the last quote above). At the beginning of 
the Introduction to the Commentary, he appears to associate the Qur'an with God’s pre-eternal 
knowledge, for when asked about whether God’s knowledge about His servants was apparent to 
Him before or after He created them, he cites in answer the verse, It is a Glorious Qur'an [85:21], and 
adds, ‘that is, it is a Book [that was] fixed in a Preserved Tablet [85:22] before they were created.’ 122 
We have already seen above that he identifies the Qur'an with God’s knowledge and His speech, 
explaining that His speech is therefore (like His knowledge) one of His attributes. Not surprisingly, 
therefore, he also unequivocally asserts the uncreated nature of the Qur'an, as when he comments 
on the words, And there would never come from the Compassionate One any reminder that is new 
but that they used to disregard it [26:5], and says: 

That is, whenever there came to them, through revelation, knowledge of the Qur'an which was 
new to them and of which they had no prior knowledge, they would turn away from it. This 
is not to say that the Reminder ( dhikr ) [i.e. the Qur'an] itself is created ( muhdath ), however, 
for it is from among the attributes of the essence of God, and is therefore neither existentiated 
( mukawwan ) nor created ( makhluq ). 123 

In another context, Tustarl suggests that the Qur'an ‘contains’ the Names and Attributes of God. 
In his commentary on the ‘disconnected letters’ at the commencement of Surat al-Baqara, Aliflam 
mim [2:1], he observes, ‘Each book that God, Exalted is He, sent down contains a secret and the 
secret of the Qur'an is contained within the [disconnected] letters which open the suras, because 
they are Names and Attributes [of God].’ Before this, Tustari’s interpretation of the Basmala in the 
concluding section of the Introduction to the Commentary indicates more about the significance 
and mystery held in the letters of the Qur'an: 

The 'ba stands for 'b aha' Allah’ (the magnificence of God), Mighty and Majestic is He, the ‘ sin 
stands for 'sand' Allah’ (the resplendence of God), and the 'mim stands for ‘majd Allah’ (the 
glory of God), Mighty and Majestic is He. Allah is the Greatest Name, which contains all His 
names. Between its 'Alif’ and 'Lam there is a cryptic letter, something of the unseen from 
an unseen to an unseen, a secret from a secret to a secret, a reality from a reality to a reality. 124 

B. The Muhammadan Light 

Tustarl was among the early Muslim mystics to have contemplated the idea of the Muhammadan 
Light ( nur Muhammadiyya ). 125 The idea is twofold: firstly that Muhammad had a special ‘time’ in 
pre-existence, alone with God; the second is that all of creation was created from the Muhammadan 
Light. 126 These doctrines are first discussed in the context of 7:172, a verse which recounts the 

122 IC, p. 1. 

123 The doctrine of the majority of Sunni Muslims now is that the Qur'an is uncreated and eternal. Among those who 
opposed this view were, to begin with, the Jahmites and then the MuTazilites. On this subject see Richard C. Martin 
‘Createdness of the Qur'an, EQ, vol. 1, p. 467; Montgomery Watt, ‘Early Discussions about the Qur'an,’ Muslim World 
40 (1950), pp. 21-40 and 96-105; Wilferd Madelung, ‘The Origins of the Controversy Concerning the Creation of the 
Qur'an, in idem, Religious Schools and Sects in Medieval Islam (London, 1985), pp. 504-25; and Walter M. Patton, Ahmad 
b. Hanbal and the Mihna (Leiden, 1897). 

124 IC, pp. 8-9. 

125 He may well have been the earliest Sunni mystic to have formulated such a doctrine, although in ShlT and Imam! circles 
the idea seems to have existed earlier. See, for example, Uri Rubin, ‘Pre-existence and Light: Aspects of the Concept of 
Nur Muhammad ’, Israel Oriental Studies 5 (1975), pp. 62-119; and Arzina Lalani, Early Sht c i Thought: The Teachings of 
Muhammad al-Baqir (London, 2004), pp. 80-2. 

126 A similar doctrine in Sufism was that Muhammad, the first in creation, was created for God, while the rest of creation 


XXXI 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


pre-eternal covenant which God made with humanity (the Covenant of Alast): And, [remember] 
when your Lord took from the Children of Adam, from their loins their seed, and made them testify 
about themselves, [saying]. Am I not your Lord?’ They said, 'Yea, indeed, we testify ’... 127 In the fol- 
lowing extract, Tustari expounds his doctrine of the Muhammadan Light: 

The seed ( dhurriyya ) comprise three [parts] , a first, second and third: the first is Muhammad M, 
for when God, Exalted is He, wanted to create Muhammad M, He made appear ( azhara ) a light 
from His light, and when it reached the veil of divine majesty ( c azama ) it prostrated before 
God, and from that prostration God created an immense crystal-like column of light, that was 
inwardly and outwardly translucent, and within it was the essence of Muhammad M . 128 Then 
it stood in service before the Lord of the Worlds for a million years with the essential charac- 
teristics of faith, which are the visual beholding of faith (mu'dyanat al-imdn), the unveiling of 
certainty ( mukdshafat al-yaqin) and the witnessing of the Lord ( mushahadat al-rabb ). Thus He 
honoured him with this witnessing a million years before beginning the creation. 129 
Also in the context of 7:172, Tustari discusses the creation of Adam and the descendants of Adam 
from the Muhammadan light, and it can be seen that there are varying degrees of illumination in 
their creation: 

The second among the progeny is Adam W&. God created him from the light of Muhammad M. 
And He created Muhammad H, that is, his body, from the clay of Adam S&S. 

The third is the progeny of Adam. God, Mighty and Majestic is He, created the seekers [of 
God] (muridun) from the light of Adam, and He created the [divinely-] sought ( muradun ) 
from the light of Muhammad ‘M- Thus, the generality among people live under the mercy of 
the people of proximity {ahl al-qurb ) and the people of proximity live under the mercy of the 
one brought near ( al-muqarrab ) [i.e. the Prophet] — With their light shining forth before them 
and on their right [57:12]. 

The Prophets time alone with God is also alluded to in Tustari’s commentary on 53:13: And verily 
he saw Him another time. He states: 

That is, in the beginning when God, Transcendent and Exalted is He, created him as a light 
within a column of light (nuran ft c amud al-nur ), a million years before creation, with the 
essential characteristics of faith ( tabdY al-imdn), in a witnessing of the unseen through the 
unseen ( mushahadat al-ghayb bi’l-ghayb ). 

The derivation of other creatures (or the light of other creatures) from the Muhammadan Light is 
also referred to in a number of other passages, as in the following: 

He [God] made the gushing forth of the wellsprings of the heart of Muhammad sg, with the 
lights of knowledge of different kinds, a [sign of] mercy for his nation, because God, Exalted is 
He, honoured him with this honour. For the light of the prophets M B is from his [Muhammad’s] 


was created for Muhammad. Later this idea became popularised and known simply as the doctrine of law laka, being 
an abbreviation of ‘If it were not for you We would not have created the spheres ( law laka la-ma khalaqtul-afldk)\ on 
which see Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad is His Messenger (Chapel Hill, NC, 1985), pp. 131-2. 

127 In the so-called ‘Covenant of Alasf, the word alast is a reference to Gods question, alastu, ‘Am I not. . .?’ 

128 Interestingly, Tustari speaks here of the ‘essence { z ayn) of Muhammad; later Sufis, especially after Ibn c Arabi (d. 638/1240) 
would refer not only to the Muhammadan Light (nur Muhammadiyya) but also to ‘the Muhammadan Reality’ ( haqiqa 
Muhammadiyya). See Michel Chodkiewicz, Seal of Saints: Prophethood and Sainthood in the Doctrine of Ibn Arabi 
(Cambridge, 1993), ch. 4. 

129 A parallel passage is cited in both the Atf al-alif of Daylami, p. 33, and the 7 /m al-qulub attributed to MakkI, 7 /m al- 
qulub (Beirut, 2004), p. 93, which according to Bowering’s translation reads: ‘When God willed to create Muhammad, 
He made appear a light from His light and disseminated it. It spread in the entire kingdom [of pre-existence] . When 
it reached the majesty it bowed in prostration. God created from its prostration a mighty column of dense light like 
a crystal glass that is as thick as the seven heavens and outwardly and inwardly translucent.’ On the Muhammadan 
Light according to Tustari, see Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 149-53; on the Muhammadan Light in Sufi literature, see 
Schimmel, Muhammad, ch. 7. 

xxxii 


Introduction to the Translation 


light, the light of the heavenly dominions ( malakut ) is from his light and the light of this world 
and the Hereafter is from his light. 130 
And the above-cited passage: 

By the dawn [89:1] refers to Muhammad M, from whom the lights of faith, the lights of acts of 
obedience and the lights of the two worlds of existence gushed forth ( tafajjarat ). 

C. Theology 

The theological doctrines that Tustari expounds in his Tafsir are for the most part those that were 
adhered to by the majority of early Sunni traditionalist Muslims. 131 Among these doctrines, that of 
the uncreated Qur an has been discussed above. Another key theological doctrine that is presented 
early in the Introduction to the Commentary is that of God’s pre- eternal knowledge of all human 
acts, and His decreeing everything in accordance with His knowledge: 

God’s knowledge of His servants and what they would do was complete before He created them. 
[This does not imply] His forcing them into disobedience, coercing them into obedience, or 
leaving them out of His divine plan. Rather, it draws attention to that which those who deny 
His decree are promised, for He says: . . . whoever will, let him believe, and whoever will, let him 
disbelieve [18:29] > in the way of a threat, since they [actually] have no power ( hawl ) or strength 
( quwwa ) except in accordance with that which is contained in His pre-eternal knowledge con- 
cerning them, which will come to be, from Him, [but] through them and for them. 132 
Later in the course of his commentary, Tustari adds that God’s pre-eternal knowledge inevitably 
has to be manifested, ‘since God’s knowledge is a final decree that cannot change to other than that 
which the All-Knowing knows, Mighty and Majestic is He.’ 133 

Tustarl’s doctrine concerning the carrying through of the divine decree by human beings is 
interestingly nuanced. He teaches that God created both good and evil, and He commanded the 
good and forbade evil. However, as he indicates in the above passage, the compliance or otherwise 
to the divine command by human beings does not involve any coercion (jabr ) on the part of God; 
rather, the matter of obedience depends upon His granting of protection ( c isma ), success ( tawftq ) 
and help (mcTuna), while disobedience is the result of His withdrawing His protection from, or His 
abandonment ( khidhlan ) of, a person: 

Indeed, God, Exalted is He, has created good and evil and established the command and pro- 
hibition. He has made us worship Him through the good and linked that with success (tawftq), 
while He has forbidden us from evil and linked the perpetration of it to the relinquishing of 
[His] protection (Hsma), and abandonment ( khidhlan ) [by Him]. All of these are of His crea- 
tion. Whoever is successful in [doing] good has a duty to show gratitude ( shukr ), and whoever 
has been left to do evil must repent and cry out for God’s help, Mighty and Majestic is He. 134 
In another passage, the same principle is expressed slightly differently, and here he mentions the 
attribution of acts to human beings: 


130 Tafsir, 11:40. 

131 On the development of Muslim theology see Josef van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und$. Jahrhundert Hidschra: 
eine Geschichte des religidsen Denkens imfruhen Islam (Berlin, 1991-5); idem, The Flowering of Muslim Theology, trans. 
Jane Marie Todd (Boston, 2006); Montgomery Watt, The Formative Period of Islamic Thought (Edinburgh, 1973); Morris 
S. Seale, Muslim Theology (London, 1964); Robert Caspar, A Historical Introduction to Islamic Theology: Muhammad and 
the Classical Period, trans. R Johnstone (Rome, 1998); Tilman Nagel, The History of Islamic Theology: From Muhammad 
to the Present, trans. Thomas Thornton (Princeton, 2000); Michael Marmura (ed.), Islamic Theology and Philosophy 
(Albany, 1984); Richard C. Martin, et al., Defenders of Reason in Islam: Mutazilism from Medieval School to Modern 
Symbol (Oxford, 1987); and Timothy J. Winter (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology (Cambridge, 
2008). 

132 IC, pp. 1-2. 

133 Tafsir, 2:41. 

134 Tafsir, 30:40. 


xxxiii 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Affliction and well-being are from God, Mighty and Majestic is He. The command and pro- 
hibition are from Him; protection and the granting of success are from Him; and reward and 
punishment are from Him. However, actions are attributed ( mansuba ) to the children of 
Adam, so whoever performs a good action must express gratitude to merit thereby an increase 
[in goodness]; and whoever performs a wicked act must seek forgiveness, so that he thereby 
merits forgiveness. 135 

In both these passages Tustari is urging that human beings should recognise the omnipotence of 
God, who has predetermined all that they do, and whose help or abandonment is instrumental in 
their accomplishment of all predetermined acts of good or evil. Yet in addition, especially in the 
second passage, he is indicating that even God’s predestination of wicked acts leaves a door open 
to salvation through repentance and forgiveness, and that through gratitude for good works, man 
may gain access to an increase in good works. 136 

The closely related doctrines of the divine decree, infallibly carried out in accordance with God’s 
pre-eternal knowledge, of God’s omnipotence, and of humanity’s total helplessness and depend- 
ence on God, prevail throughout the Tafslr. It could more specifically be called a ‘mystical theology’ 
since Tustari shows how, as well as having profound implications for man’s ultimate salvation, it can 
impact upon his inner spiritual states. He teaches that people should be aware not only that God 
controls all things, but also that He suffices for them in every way. Indeed, their downfall occurs 
precisely when they start to believe in their own power ( hawl ) and strength (quwwa), and try to 
rely on their own planning and management ( tadblr ) of their affairs. He finds many opportunities 
to illustrate this principle. For example, in the continuation of the passage cited above from his 
commentary on 2:214, he states: 

Affliction from God is of two kinds: an affliction of mercy and an affliction of punishment. An 
affliction of mercy leads the afflicted person to show his utter need ( iftiqdr ) for God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He, and leads him to the abandonment of devising (tadblr). However, an affliction 
of punishment leads the afflicted person [to rely] on his own choice ( ikhtiyar ) and devising. 
Another example of this teaching is to be found in his commentary on the words those who believe 
in the unseen (ghayb) [2:3], where Tustari directly links believing in the unseen with disclaiming 
all power and strength: 

God is the unseen and His religion is the unseen, and God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has 
ordered them to believe in the unseen, to acquit themselves of [every claim] to power and 
strength concerning that which they have been commanded to do and prohibited from doing, 
in faith, speech and action, and to say, ‘We have no power (hawl) to keep ourselves from diso- 
bedience save through Your protection (Hsma), and we have no strength (quwwa) to obey You 
save through Your aid (ma c una)’. 

Those who are ‘damned from pre-eternity’, however, are those who claimed their own power and 
strength, as exemplified by Pharaoh, who ‘claimed to have power, strength and ability, and said, 
“Whenever I wish to believe I will believe”, but when he actually came to believe [once he had seen 
the approach of his doom] , it was not accepted from him, as God, Exalted is He, said, Now — when 
hitherto you have disobeyed and been of those who do corruption? [io:9i]’ 137 

One of the most interesting and unusual applications of this doctrine is in Tustari’s interpre- 
tation of the story of Adam’s fall or ‘slip’ from grace in Paradise [2:30]. He describes how when 
Adam entered the Garden and saw all that was in it, he said, ‘If only we could stay here forever; yet, 

135 Tafslr, 2:214. We might compare Tustarls use of the concept of the attribution of acts by human beings to the doctrine 
of acquisition ( kasb ) which later came to be particularly associated with Ash c ari theology. On the doctrine of kasb see 
W. Montgomery Watt, ‘The Origin of the Islamic doctrine of Acquisition’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1943), pp. 
234-47; idem, Free Will and Predestination in Early Islam (London, 1948); Daniel Gimaret, Theories de lacte humaine 
en theologie musulmane (Paris and Leuven, 1980). 

136 Perhaps this statement may in part be intended to discourage a sense of fatalism. But it is also interesting how Tustari 
emphasises the need for a spiritual response to predestination. 

137 Tafslr, 2:3. 


XXXIV 


Introduction to the Translation 


indeed, we have an appointed time that extends to a known limit.’ This, he explains, was Adam’s 
heart’s acquiescing in the ‘whispering’ or evil prompting ( waswasa ) of his lower self ( nafs), 13s and 
it was thus that Satan could have access to him and offer to lead him to the ‘tree of eternity that he 
longed for’, which would be ‘the means to attain immortality and everlastingness’. Further on in his 
interpretation of this primordial event, Tustari observes that Satan had access to Adam because of 
the latter’s preoccupation with his own devising and planning ( tadbir ), and he adds: 

[Adam’s] thought [for everlasting life] did not involve any considered reflection which might 
have made it a form of worship, but rather it was a kind of thinking that springs from a natural 
disposition (jibilla ) in his lower self ( nafs ). 

Thus Adam’s reliance on his devising ( tadbir ) represented, as Tustari shows in his long commentary 
on this verse, a moment of forgetfulness and an absence of the remembrance of God, and we shall see 
later that remembrance of God is a touchstone of all Tustari’s teachings concerning the spiritual path. 

The prophet Jonah is also shown by Tustari to have succumbed, like Adam, to reliance on his 
own devising, this being his only sin, before he was chosen by God and made of the righteous . 139 
Tustari’s general admonition on the basis of this doctrine is summarised in his commentary on the 
words He directs the command from the heaven to the earth... [ 32:5]: 

He reveals to His servants from His knowledge that which is a means of guidance and salva- 
tion for them. The person who is content with the destined provision resulting from God’s 
management [of things] ( tadbir ) for him, will have the evil of his own devising disposed of and 
removed from him. Thus [God] will have returned him to a state of contentment ( rida ) with 
the divine decree, and rectitude ( istiqdma ) in face of the unfolding of what is destined for him. 
[Such people] are among those who are brought into proximity [with Him] ( muqarrabun ). 
Truly, God, Exalted is He, created people without any veil, and then made their devising [for 
themselves] ( tadbir ) into their veil. 

This last passage in particular illustrates the mystical dimension of Tustari’s theology, and its poten- 
tially transformative impact upon the inner life of the human being. 

D. The Spiritual Destiny of Human Beings: Cosmology and Eschatology 
The doctrine of the divine foreknowledge and decree is also to be found in Tustari’s interpretation of 
the pre-eternal covenant made between God and all of humanity (Covenant of Alast), as recounted 
in the Qur anic verse 7:172, which we shall again cite here: 

And, [remember] when your Lord took from the Children of Adam, from their loins their seed, 
and made them testify about themselves, [saying]. Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yea, indeed, 
we testify’. . . 

In his long interpretation of this verse, Tustari not only expounds his doctrine of the Muhammadan 
Light, as discussed above, but he also pays close attention to the Covenant itself, which in fact he 
understands as two covenants, taken separately, first from the prophets and then from all the progeny: 
God, Exalted is He, took the prophets from the loins of Adam, and then He extracted from 

the back of each prophet his progeny in the shape of specks possessing intellects ( c uqul ). Then 
he took from the prophets their pledge, as is stated in His words, We took from the prophets their 
pledge: as (We did) from you and from Noah... [33:7]. The Covenant that they were bound to was 
that they would convey from God, Exalted is He, His commandments and prohibitions. Then 
He called them all to affirm His lordship, with His words, Exalted is He: Am I not your Lord?’, 
and He manifested His omnipotence [to them], so they said: ‘Yea, indeed, we testify.’ [7:172] ... 
Then He returned them to the loins of Adam and subsequently He sent the prophets to 
remind them of His Pact and Covenant. 

138 The word waswasa , derived from the onomatopoeic root w-s-w-s , means literally ‘a whisper or whispering’, but usually 
in religious texts in the sense of an evil prompting, incitement or temptation. Two derivatives from this verb are used 
in the final sura of the Qur'an, 114:4 and 5. 

139 Tafsir, 68:49. 


XXXV 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


As can be seen, Tustarl has here stated that the progeny were in the shape of specks ‘possessing 
intellects ( c uqul )’. Later in the Tafslr, in his commentary on the words, O you who believe, fear God, 
and let every soul consider what it has sent ahead for tomorrow... [ 59:18], he warns that on the Day 
of Resurrection everyone will be questioned about three things: ‘that which he owes to himself, that 
which he owes to the knowledge between him and his Lord, and that which he owes to the intellect’. 
The believers, then, must be concerned in this life to fulfil the pre-eternal Covenant made with God, 
and to be among those who ‘verify the affirmation made in the response, ‘Yes we testify’, with the 
awareness that they will certainly be answerable for it in the Hereafter. This verifying is none other 
than the realisation of the oneness of God ( tawhld ). Thus he interprets [those] who stand firm in 
their testimony [70:33], as: 

[Those] who stand firm, upholding that to which they have testified, namely that there is no 
god except God, and who do not shirk with regard to it in any of their deeds, words or states. 
Tustari does not fail to remind those whom he is addressing of the accounting that they will inevi- 
tably face at the Resurrection, 140 and he also warns them not to be complacent, for they do not 
know in what state they will die. Thus when he comments on the words, And no soul knows in 
what land it will die [31:34], he says: ‘[It does not know] what its state ( hukm ) will be when it dies: 
[eternal] bliss ( sa'ada ) or wretchedness ( shaqdwa ) ’. The use here of the word hukm, which can have 
the meaning of ‘ordinance’ or ‘decree’, is a reminder that the nature of our end is dependent on the 
divine decree, and for this reason, he follows his interpretation of the verse with two prayers of 
the Prophet Muhammad, asking that God should make him die in His religion, as well as prayers 
of the prophets Abraham and Joseph asking that they should die in a state of submission to God. 

Believers must, therefore, be aware that until their last breath they should be constantly renew- 
ing their pre-eternal Covenant by professing and realising the divine oneness, and, since they have 
no idea what is in God’s pre-eternal knowledge, they should pray for His mercy and assistance in 
this. Tustari must certainly have known that such awareness would be intensified by his many quite 
literal comments on the eschatological verses of the Qur’an recounting the torments of Hell and 
delights of Paradise, to which he sometimes adds vivid details. 141 Again, he makes it clear that it is 
those who denied the divine oneness who will be consigned to Hell, whereas the reward for belief 
in God’s oneness will be Paradise. 142 

However, Tustari does not see Paradise as being confined to the delights that are portrayed in 
the Qur’an. He understands there to be two Paradises: one, the Garden with all its delights, pro- 
vides the rewards for the bodily members; the other, the reward for the realisation of God’s oneness, 
contains ‘the delight of the vision ( nazar ) of God and the manifestation of the divine unveiling 
( tajalli al-mukashafa), this itself being permanent subsistence with the Permanently Subsistent One 
( baqd ’ matfl-Bdqi )! 141 Moreover, those who have devoted themselves completely to God will have 
no desire for the delights of the Garden, but wish only to be with God. Commenting on the words, 
And enter My paradise [89:30], he says: 

It has been related in a report that the angels say to those solely devoted to Him ( munfaridun ) 
on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Proceed to your resting places in Paradise’, to which they say, 
‘What is Paradise to us when we have devoted ourselves solely to [Him] because of a special 
understanding which has been [granted] to us from Him? We do not want anything save Him 
— that is the only good life ( haydt tayyibaf. 

Whilst in his Tafslr Tustari shows the greatest and ultimate reward for the realisation of God’s 
oneness to be the encounter with God, subsisting with Him and the beatific vision of Him, which 

140 Examples of such comments occur in Tafsir, 9:122; 16:55; 17:14; 19:83; 23:1 and 2; and 69:18. 

141 As, for example, in Tafsir, 57:13; 67:1 and 2, 69:32; 76:21; 81:7; Sura 83; 84:9; Sura 88 and 89:14. 

142 e.g. Tafsir, 83:18. 

143 Tafsir, 43:69 and 70. Tustari also states in his commentary on 90:18 that those who perceived none other than God [in 
this world] will be rewarded with ‘life with Life itself (haydt bi-hayat), eternity with Eternity itself ( azaliyya bi-azaliyya), 
and a mystery with Mystery itself ( sirr bi-sirr)*, while in his commentary on 92:21 he describes the reward as: ‘a mystery 
with Mystery itself ( sirr bi-sirr ), life with Life itself ( haydt bi-hayat), and eternity with Eternity itself ( azaliyya bi-azaliyya )! 


XXXVI 


Introduction to the Translation 


are to be anticipated and hoped for in the Hereafter, he does also indicate that mystics who have 
attained the highest states may taste in this life experiences of encounter with God, described as 
the unveiling ( mukdshafa ) and witnessing ( mushahada ) of God. Thus in his commentary on the 
words, As for the righteous, they will he in bliss (na c im) [82:13], h e states: 

The bliss of the elect among His servants who are the righteous ( abrar ) is the encounter with 
Him ( liqdluhu ) and the witnessing ( mushahada ) of Him, just as their bliss in this world was in 
the witnessing of Him and proximity ( qurb ) with Him. 

We find in the Tafsir only a few glimpses into the nature of this experience. One of the best 
examples may be seen in the commentary on a mystical poem, probably composed by Tustari, 
which is quoted in the context of the long commentary on 2:260. In this poem, the experience of 
‘face-to-face encounter with God’ ( kifdh ) is compared to the spider’s web which appeared over the 
entrance to a cave in which the Prophet and Abu Bakr were hiding when they were escaping from 
Mecca. 144 Commenting on this analogy, either Tustari or one of his disciples explains: 

His saying: ‘Like the spider’s web covering the entrance of a cave’, [is an allusion to] the cave of 
mystics farifun) [which is] the[ir] innermost secret ( sirr ), and the [ir] beholding ( ittilcT) of the 
Lord of the Worlds, when they reach the station of face-to-face encounter ( maqam al-kifah), 
that is, the immediate vision of direct witnessing ( Hydn al-iyan ) beyond what has been [ver- 
bally] elucidated ( bayan ). Then there is nothing between the servant and God except the veil 
of servanthood, due to his contemplation ( nazar ) of the attributes of lordship ( rububiyya ), 
ipseity ( huwiyya ), divinity ( ilahiyya ), and [God’s being] eternally Self-Sufficing and Besought 
of all ( samadiyya ilal-sarmadiyya ), without any obstacle or veil. 145 
Tustari draws from the words. And brought him near in communion [19:52], which allude to the 
special proximity accorded to the prophet Moses, a more general observation about the grace of 
unveiling ( mukdshafa ): 

That is, being secretly called for the unveiling ( mukdshafa ), [an unveiling] which is not con- 
cealed from hearts, in [intimate] conversation ( muhadatha ) and loving affection ( wudd ), just 
as He said, Exalted is He, Truly those who believe and perform righteous deeds — for them the 
Compassionate One shall appoint love (wudd) [19:96], meaning that [through] this unveiling, 
the mysteries are received without any mediation. This is a station given by God to those who 
are true and faithful to Him both in secret and openly. 

Parts of Tustari’s interpretation of the miraculous Ascension or Mfrdj of the Prophet [53:1-18] also 
suggest that aspects of the Prophet’s conduct are being presented to provide a model for the conduct 
of mystics in their experiences, as when Tustari comments on 53:17, The eye did not swerve, nor did 
it go beyond [the bounds ]: 

He did not incline to the evidences of his self ( shawahid nafsihi), nor to witnessing them 
( mushahadatiha ), but was totally absorbed in the witnessing ( mushahada ) of his Lord, Exalted 
is He, witnessing ( shahid ) the attributes [of God] that were being manifested [to him] , which 
required firmness from him in that place ( mahall ). 

And when he comments on the words of the next verse, Verily he saw some of the greatest signs of 
his Lord [53:18]: 

That is, those of His attributes which became manifest through His signs. Though he saw them, 
he did not let slip [his gaze] from his witnessed Object (mashhud), and did not withdraw from 
the vicinity of his worshipped Object ( matbud ) but rather [what he saw] only increased him 
in love ( mahabba ), longing ( shawq ) and strength ( quwwa ). 

Aside from these glimpses into experiences of union or proximity with God or the mystical 
unveiling and contemplative witnessing of Him, most of the spiritual teachings in Tustari’s Tafsir 
are concerned with outlining essential prerequisites of the Path, models to be emulated, qualities 

144 The spiders web and a doves nest next to the caves entrance persuaded those among the Quraysh who were pursuing 
them that there was no point in entering, and so the Prophet and Abu Bakr were saved. 

145 Tafsir, 2:260. 


XXXV11 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


to be aspired to and proprieties ( adab ) of spiritual conduct to be upheld, especially in relation to 
others. The spiritual aim of the mystical way is, as he indicates, to attain complete sincerity ( ikhlas ) 
in the worship of God and in the attestation of His oneness, and the key to it is, as we shall see, the 
remembrance of God. Before outlining in more detail Tustari’s teachings about the principles and 
practice of the spiritual path, we shall look at his perception of the interior world of the human being 
and his teachings regarding the nature of, and relationship between, faith, knowledge and certainty. 

E. Spiritual Psychology 

1. The inner make-up of the human being 

Sufis did not simply understand the human being to be made up of ‘body, soul and spirit’; they 
developed a subtle and complex science of the inner human make-up, which one might call a ‘spir- 
itual psychology’ or ‘science of the soul’. The Qur'an itself speaks of the human heart ( qalb ) upon 
which God inscribes faith [58:22], and which was able to take on the ‘Trust’ ( amana ) [33:72] ; 146 the 
spirit ( ruh ) [e.g. 32:9; 15:29; 38:72]; the ‘pith’ or ‘inner substance’ ( lubb , used in the plural, albab ) [e.g. 
2:179, 197; 3:7, 190]; the ‘breast’ ( sadr ) [e.g. 7:2; 11:12; 15:97; 94:1]; and many times of the ‘soul’, ‘self’ or 
‘ego’ ( nafs ). 147 Moreover, the Qur'an speaks of different forms of the latter, namely, the ‘evil-inciting 
self’ ( al-nafs al-ammara bi’l-sff ) (alluded to in 12:53), the ‘self-reproaching’ or ‘blaming self’ ( al-nafs 
al-lawwama) [75:2] and the ‘self at peace’ ( al-nafs al-mutma’inna ) [89:27]. These Qur'anic designa- 
tions no doubt inspired and informed the development of the Sufis’ own ways of understanding 
the spiritual psychology of human beings. 148 

Tustari was among the early Muslim mystics who expounded an understanding of the complex- 
ity of the inner human make-up. 149 In general terms, he seems to perceive two sides or propensities 
within the human being, one which tends toward earth and the physical and sensory pleasures, and 
the other which tends toward heaven and the spiritual realm. He expresses this overall scheme in 
different ways in the Tafslr (see diagram, below). Most often, he contrasts two sides of the ‘self’ 
(nafs). There is on the one hand the ‘self of man’s basic nature’ ( nafs al-tab\ but also occasionally, 
nafs al-jibilla ), which we have rendered as the ‘natural self’; and on the other, the ‘self of the spirit’ 
( nafs al-ruh), which we have rendered as the ‘spiritual self’. 150 The former is associated with dark- 
ness, and the latter with light, as when Tustari interprets the night when it enshrouds [92:1] as ‘the 
natural self’ ( nafs al-tab c ) and the day as it unveils [92:2] as ‘the spiritual self’. 

In a few instances, Tustari appears to employ the word ruh (spirit) on its own synonymously 
with nafs al-ruh. The term tab c on its own, however, is almost always used by him to designate man’s 
basic nature, or his physical appetites and instincts, though in one context he speaks of four inborn 
natures or dispositions (; tabaT ), which are all part of his basic nature (tab'). They are: the animal 
nature (tab c al-bahdHm), the satanic nature ( tab c al-shaydtin), the sorcerous nature ( tab c al-sahara ) 
and the devilish nature (tab c al-abalisa ). All of these are potentially negative forces within the 


146 The ‘Trust’ (amana) is discussed below, p. 219, n. 6. 

147 On the different usages of the term nafs (pi. anfus or nufus ) in the Qur’an, see Th. E. Homerin, ‘Soul’, EQ , vol. 5, p. 80. 

148 On the connection between the development of Sufi concepts and terminology in relation to the Qur’an, see Paul Nwyia, 
Exegese coranique (Beirut, 1970) and Massignon, Essai. 

149 Other early mystics to have developed such schemes are al-Harith al-Muhasibi (d. 243/837), Abu al-Husayn al-Nuri (d. 
295/907) and al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi (d. between 295/905 and 300/910). On Muhasibi, see Josef van Ess, Die Gedank- 
enwelt des Harit al-Muhasibi (Bonn, 1961); Gavin N. Picken, ‘The Concept of Tazkiyat al-Nafs in Islam in the Light of 
the Works of al-Harith al-Muhasibi’, PhD thesis (University of Leeds, 2005). Nuri is said to be the author of a work 
entitled Maqamat al-qulub , ed. with introduction by Paul Nwyia in Melanges de VUniversite Saint-Joseph 44 (1968), pp. 
117-54, while a comparable work on the inner make-up of human beings is ascribed to al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, entitled 
Baydn al-farq bayn al-sadr wal-qalb wa’l-fu'ad wal-lubb (Cairo, 1958); English trans. by Nicholas Heer, with Kenneth 
L. Honerkamp, Three Early Sufi Texts (Louisville, KY, 2003). 

150 The use of this construct is unusual in Sufi texts, if not unique to Tustari, and it may initially be tempting to understand 
the word nafs here in its idiomatic usage for emphasis in Arabic, as in nafs al-shay , meaning ‘the thing itself’. However, 
we have discounted this interpretation partly because it occurs rather too frequently to be merely for emphasis, and 
partly for other reasons which will become apparent in the course of this discussion. 

xxxviii 


Introduction to the Translation 


human being and should be combatted in different ways. 151 Thus Tustari appears to distinguish 
man’s ‘natural self’ ( nafs al-tabf from his ‘basic nature’ ( tab c ). 


Twofold Inner Constitution of the Human Being 





[lower] self 

nafs 

spirit 

ruh 



nafs 

natural self 

nafs al-tab c /nafs al-jibilla 

spiritual self 

nafs al-ruh 


ruh 


dense natural self 

nafs-al-tab c al-kathif 

luminous spiritual self 

nafs al-ruh al-nuri 

J 



basic nature /natural instinct 

tab c 

heart 

qalb 


qalb 


natures / dispositions 

tabaY 

(discernment of the heart 

fitnat al-qalb) 


tab c 

physical appetite /animal instinct 

tab : al-bahaHm 






Satanic nature 

tab : al-shayatin 

intellect 

c aql 


1 aql 


sorcerous nature 

tab : al-sahara 

(understanding of the intellect 

fahm al-aql) 



devilish nature 

tab : al-abalisa 






Further Designations of the Self {nafs) 


evil-inciting self al-nafs al-ammara bi’l-su 3 

self-reproaching / blaming self al-nafs al-lawwama 

lustful self al-nafs al-shahwaniyya 


self at peace al-nafs al-mutmaHnna 

self of gnosis nafs al-ma'rifa 


In fact, the term nafs on its own is frequently used by Tustari to designate the darker, earth- 
bound side of the human being that is opposed to the spiritual self (or spirit). In these instances, 
we have translated the word nafs as ‘lower self’. An example is the following passage: 

The lower self (nafs) desires the world because it comes from that, but the spirit ( ruh ) desires 
the Hereafter because it comes from that. Gain ascendancy over the lower self and open for it 
the door to the Hereafter by glorifying [God] ( tasbih ) and seeking forgiveness for your nation. 152 
Here, Tustari is indicating that the lower self can potentially be ‘saved’ through the glorification of 
God. Elsewhere, he shows that the natural self (nafs al-tabf can be allied or brought into coalition 
with the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh) through the remembrance of God (dhikr). Thus he interprets 
the forenoon [93:1] as ‘the spiritual self’, and the night when it is still [93:2] as ‘the natural self when 
it finds repose with the spiritual self in constant remembrance of God, Exalted is He.’ In another 
context he emphasises the salutary role of both the remembrance of God (dhikr) and gratitude 
(shukr), as in his commentary on the words, when souls shall be coupled [81:7], where he states: 
The natural self and spiritual self will be joined together and will be mingled in [their partaking 
of] the bliss of Paradise inasmuch as they were allied in this world in keeping remembrance 
constantly and upholding a state of gratitude. 

In an interesting passage, Tustari contrasts the inner process which takes place at death with 
that which occurs during sleep. He explains that both the luminous spiritual self (nafs al-ruh al-nuri) 
and the dense natural self (nafs al-tab c al-kathif) have a subtle substance (latif). When a person 
dies, God removes from him the subtle substance of the luminous spiritual self, separating it from 
the subtle substance of the dense natural self, ‘and by this [luminous spiritual self] he compre- 
hends things, and is given the vision (rufa) [of God] in the heavenly kingdom ( malakut ).’ When 
a person sleeps, however, God removes from him only the subtle substance of the dense natural 
self, so that when he awakens, he is able to recover a ‘subtle breath’ from the luminous substance 
of the spiritual self, because it is ‘by virtue of the light of the subtle substance of the spiritual self 
that the natural self has life’. Thus, the natural self derives life from the spiritual self, while the life 


151 Tafsir, 12 : 53 . 

152 Tafsir, 110 : 2 . 


XXXIX 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


of the spiritual self, as Tustari explains, is ‘by virtue of the remembrance [of God] ( dhikr ), indeed 
its sustenance is remembrance, while the sustenance of the natural self is food and drink.’ He then 
adds the observation: 

Whoever cannot reconcile these two opposites, I mean by that, the natural self and the spiritual 
self, so that the subsistence ( c aysh ) of the two together is by remembrance, and the endeavour 
[to accomplish] remembrance, is not a mystic ( c drif) in reality. 153 
So far we have seen the ‘natural self’ ( nafs al-tab c or nafs al-jibilla), the ‘ [lower] self’ ( nafs ) and basic 
nature (tabf opposed to the ‘spiritual self’ (or the ‘spirit’), but in his overall twofold scheme Tustari 
sometimes contrasts the lower self (nafs) with the heart ( qalb ), as, for example, when he explains: 
If your lower self overpowers your heart, it will drive you to the pursuit of desire ( hawd ). But 
if your heart overpowers your lower self and your bodily members, it will tether them with 
propriety ( adab ), compel them into worship ( c ibada ), and then adorn them with sincerity in 
servanthood. 154 

He also interprets the two seas [55:19] as: ‘the sea of the heart, full of gems, and the sea of the lower 
self. Between these two is a barrier that they do not overstep [55:20].’ Likewise, in his interpretation 
of the words, He knows what enters the earth [57:4], he states: ‘The earth is the natural self, and 
thus He knows among the things which enters it that which is wholesome or corrupt for the heart.’ 
In many places in the Tafsir, Tustari presents a more complex twofold scheme of the inner 
constitution of human beings, comprising on one side the natural self ( nafs al-tab c ), or lower self 
(nafs), and on the other, the heart (qalb), the intellect ( c aql) and the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh) — 
(again, see the diagram on p. xxxix) An example of such a scheme occurs in his commentary on the 
words, By those that deliver the reminder [77:5], which in its exoteric sense is understood to refer to 
the delivering of the revelation by the angels to prophets: 

This is the revelation (wahy) through inspiration (ilhdm) which the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh), 
the intellect ( c aql) and the heart (qalb) cast upon the natural self (nafs al-tab c ), and this is the 
hidden form of reminder (dhikr khafty). 

Sometimes Tustari refines these definitions further, specifying ‘the understanding of the intel- 
lect’ (fahm al-aql ) and ‘discernment of the heart’ (fitnat al-qalb) as well as the spiritual self (nafs 
al-ruh), 1S5 or with minor variations, as when he speaks of ‘the intuition of the spiritual self’ (dhihn 
nafs al-ruh). One example is when he explains that the vision of God in the Hereafter will be the 
share of ‘the intuition of the spiritual self, the understanding of the intellect and the discernment 
of the heart’, since they were present without the natural self when God addressed human beings 
in molecular form in pre-eternity. He adds that the natural self will nonetheless receive some share 
of the beatific vision in Paradise, ‘like a fragrant breeze, due to its being fused with those lights’. 156 
These three faculties (heart, intellect and spirit or spiritual self) work together in different ways to 
overcome or transform the lower or natural self, as Tustari shows, for example, when he explains 
the repetition of the words, truly with hardship comes ease [94:5]: 

God, Exalted is He, has magnified the state of hope in this verse out of His generosity and His 
hidden grace, and thus He mentions ease twice. Indeed, the Prophet said, ‘Hardship will 
not overwhelm the two ‘eases’. By this he meant: the discernment of the heart (fitnat al-qalb) 
and the intellect ( c aql ) are the two ‘eases’ which overcome the natural self, and return it to the 
state of sincerity (ikhlds). 


153 Tafsir, 39:42. 

154 Tafsir, 48:4. 

155 Tafsir, 18:21 and 19:61. The juxtaposition of these three in this form is a further indication that Tustari is not using the 
word nafs in its emphatic meaning in the construct nafs al-ruh. 

156 Tafsir, 42:20. We may note here that Tustari had stated in the passage on death and sleep cited above that ‘the substance 
of the luminous spiritual self’ is separated from ‘the substance of the dense natural self at death’, since it is through the 
former that man is able to comprehend things and enjoy the beatific vision in the Hereafter. 


xl 


Introduction to the Translation 


Interestingly, Tustari does not, like later Sufis, suggest a particular hierarchy among these different 
faculties within the human being. 157 Neither does he include along with the heart, the intellect and 
the spiritual self, that important inner faculty so often mentioned in Sufism, the ‘ [innermost] secret’ 
( sirr ), also translated as ‘mysterium, ‘mystery’ or ‘inmost being’. 158 However, he does mention the 
sirr separately, in a number of contexts. It seems that he understands the innermost secret (sirr) to 
be at the very deepest level of the human being. Most often, it is associated with the contemplative 
witnessing of God ( mushahada ) and with certainty ( yaqin ), and as such it will be seen in several 
extracts cited in Section 4 below. At other times he speaks of the innermost secret when he wishes to 
describe the deepest and most sincere attainment of a spiritual virtue, such as humility, 159 veracity, 160 
neediness for God, 161 surrender to Him, 162 and fear of Him. 163 In one instance, he contrasts the 
‘innermost secret’ (sirr) within the human being with the ‘outer self’ (zahir). The life of the former 
is in God’s remembrance, while the life of the latter is in praising and thanking God. 164 

2. The nafs 

We have seen reference to man’s natural self (nafs al-tab c or nafs al-jibilla ), [lower] self (nafs) and 
also basic nature (tabf, being opposed to the heart, intellect and spiritual self or spirit. Describ- 
ing the nafs , Tustari states that when God created it, He made ignorance its nature and desire the 
closest thing to it, 165 and in another context he shows it to be in partnership with Satan. 166 When it 
is clearly in this role we have translated nafs as ‘lower self’, as noted above. But Tustari, like other 
Sufis, also appears to understand the nafs to have a number of different levels according those 
mentioned above that are spoken of in the Qur’an, namely the ‘evil-inciting self’ (nafs ammara bi’l- 
su ’), the ‘self-reproaching or blaming self’ (nafs lawwdma) and the ‘self at peace’ (nafs mutma’inna), 
though he refers to these only in one or two instances. About the evil-inciting self, he states that it 
‘is lust (shahwa), which itself is the role played by man’s basic nature (faff)’. 167 He identifies the self- 
reproaching or blaming self with the evil-inciting self. 168 Elsewhere, he speaks of the ‘lustful self’ 
(nafs shahwdniyya ) 169 and the ‘self of gnosis’ (nafs al-matrifa ), 170 which seem to be manifestations of 
the natural or lower self and the spiritual self, respectively. Moreover, in one context he identifies 
the self at peace (nafs mutmadnna) with the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh ). 171 In many Sufi texts, the 
different aspects of the nafs, such as those of the nafs ammara, nafs lawwdma, and nafs mutmadnna 
are understood as stages in its spiritual development. Without spiritual discipline, man remains 
enslaved to the dictates of the evil-inciting self, but through rigorous spiritual discipline and with 
the assistance of divine grace, the nafs may gradually be transformed into the self at peace (nafs 
mutmaHnna) } 72 Tustari, however, does not appear to see them as one nafs that is transformed, but 

157 On these hierarchies, and levels within the inner world of the human being see Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics , pp. i54ff. 

158 The term sirr is used by different Sufi authors in various ways, but is generally used to define a subtle centre of percep- 
tion or locus of mystical experience deep within the human being. On this subject see Shigeru Kamada, ‘A Study of the 
Term sirr (secret) in Sufi La taHf Theories’, Oriens 19 (1983), pp. 7-28. 

159 e.g. Tafsir , 5:6. 

160 e.g. Tafsir , 33:8. 

161 e.g. Tafsir, 35:15. 

162 e.g. Tafsir, 37:84. 

163 e.g. Tafsir, 23:1-2. 

164 Tafsir, 26:227. In this case, innermost secret (sirr) would appear to represent nafs al-ruh, and outer self (zahir), the nafs 
al-tab c , here in coalition with the nafs al-ruh through the remembrance of God. 

165 Tafsir, 12:53. 

1 66 Tafsir, 22:52. 

167 Tafsir, 12:53. 

168 Tafsir, 75:1, 2. 

169 Tafsir, 33:4. 

170 Tafsir, 12:53. 

171 Tafsir, 89:27. 

172 Or, according to the terminology of some schools of Sufism, beyond the nafs mutma'inna to reach higher stages of the 
nafs. 


xli 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


as the twofold nafs (the natural and spiritual self), which can, through the remembrance of God, be 
brought into coalition, though they will not partake of the same experience in Paradise. 173 

3. The heart ( qalb ) 

In his Tafslr, Tustarl pays particular attention to the heart. Like other Sufis he sees the heart as the 
‘seat’ or locus of faith within the human being, and this has its basis in the Qur’an, for example in 
the words of 58:22: ...He has inscribed faith upon their hearts and reinforced them with a spirit from 
Him... Commenting on these words, Tustarl states that this inscription on the heart is the work 
of God, not the work of the servant, and he describes it as a ‘gift of faith ( mawhibat al-iman)’. He 
also speaks of the heart as being a locus of the realisation of God’s oneness ( tawhid ) and of gnosis 
( matrifa ), love ( mahabba ) and intimacy ( uns ) with God. Interpreting the Much-frequented House 
(Bayt Matmur) [52:4] in a metaphorical way, he states: 

In its inner meaning, it refers to the heart: the hearts of mystics are frequented ( mdmura ) 
by His gnosis ( matrifa ), His love (mahabba), and intimacy (uns) with Him. It is to this [the 
mystic’s heart] that the angels make pilgrimage, for it is the House of the Realisation of God’s 
Oneness (bayt al-tawhid). 

Tustarl states that God created the heart ‘for Himself’, 174 and in one instance interprets the House 
of God (i.e. the Ka c ba) esoterically to represent the heart. Thus when he comments on the words, 
Purify My House for those who circumambulate it... [22:26], he states: ‘Just as God has commanded 
the purification of His House [at Mecca] from idols, so also He has commanded the purification of 
that house of His in which He deposited the mystery of faith (sirr al-iman) and the light of gnosis 
(nur al-ma c rifa), namely, the heart of the believer.’ Tustarl again employs the symbolism of the house 
for the heart when he comments on houses [lying] deserted [27:52], and explains: 

Their houses are an allusion to hearts; for there are hearts which are inhabited ( c dmir) through 
remembrance (dhikr), and there are those which are ruined (kharib) through heedlessness 
(ghafla). Whomsoever God, Mighty and Majestic is He, inspires with [His] remembrance, He 
has freed from oppression (zulm ). 175 
Yet again showing the heart to be God’s property, he states: 

Truly the heart is [like] a house: if it is unoccupied it goes to ruin, while if it is occupied by 
other than its owner, or by other than one whom the owner has settled there, it will also go to 
ruin. Therefore, if you wish your hearts to be in good repair, do not let your prayer in them be 
other than to God, Exalted is He. 176 

The heart, therefore, needs to be protected from heedlessness and from being occupied with other 
than God, and Tustarl shows that, although it is the seat of faith, it can be diverted from the true 
direction. As was seen above, Adam’s banishment from Paradise was because his heart acquiesced 
in the desire and devising of his lower self. In one context he states that although the heart is the 
most beneficial part of the human being, it is also the most dangerous, due to its tendency to turn 
back and forth and fluctuate (taqallub) and its depth, and he compares it to a sea across which one 
must journey. 177 The heart has a light of insight, through which it can overcome desire and lust. 
But Tustarl warns: 

When the heart’s sight is blind to what is within it, lust will overcome him and heedlessness 
will [afflict] him at regular intervals. Consequently his body will stray into sin without being 
guided to God under any circumstances. 178 


173 For example, the natural self will not be granted the vision of God. 

174 Tafslr, 19:85. 

175 That is, the oppression of, or wrongdoing towards, their own selves. 

176 Tafslr, 22:26. 

177 Tafslr, 30:41. 

178 Tafslr, 22:46. 


xlii 


Introduction to the Translation 


Interestingly, in his commentary on 22:46, he also speaks of an inner heart, which is ‘the position 
from which the servant stands before his Master without being agitated or busied by anything, but 
in a state of tranquillity and stillness in Him’. It may be that what Tustarl is referring to here is that 
which he elsewhere describes as the function of the innermost secret (sirr). 

The heart’s locus is the breast ( sadr ), which acts as a medium of transmission between the heart 
and the body. The breast is itself described as the locus of Islam, so it can be said that just as iman 
(faith) is situated within islam, so the heart is situated within the breast. (For references on breast 
or sadr see Index m). 

4. Knowledge, faith and certainty 

In the main, Tustari speaks of three kinds of knowledge in the Tafsir. ‘knowledge’ ( Him ), ‘gnosis’ 
or ‘mystical knowledge’ ( mdrifa ), and ‘understanding’ (fahm ), although in a few contexts he also 
mentions ‘wisdom’ ( hikma ). 

Gnosis ( matrifa ) differs from knowledge and understanding in that its locus is, as Tustarl con- 
sistently states, the heart ( qalb ). The Tight of gnosis’ was, as we saw, a ‘deposit from God’ within the 
heart, along with faith. Conversely, he describes the nature of vengeance which God took on those 
who angered Him [43:55] as being: ‘[His] removal of the light of gnosis ( nur al-mdrifa ) from their 
hearts, the lamp of the realisation of [His] oneness ( sirdj al-tawhid ) from their innermost secrets 
(asrdr), and entrusting them to their own selves.’ Thus gnosis cannot be acquired through one’s 
own efforts, but is granted by God. Like other Sufi authors, Tustarl understands mat r if a to be the 
experiential, mystical apprehension of God or of the divine mysteries. He also extends gnosis to 
include the inner meanings of the Qur'an, 179 and to the signs or portents of God in creation and 
within the human being. Thus in his commentary on the words and in yourselves too [are signs], 
do you not see? [51:21], he cites a tradition according to which God has created within the soul of 
the son of Adam one thousand and eighty portents, three hundred and sixty of which are appar- 
ent and three hundred and sixty of which are hidden, and revealed only to a prophet or veracious 
person, and he adds: 

Truly God, Exalted is He, has veiled the hearts of those who are heedless (ghafilun ) from His 
remembrance due to their pursuance of lusts, which [prevent them] from perceiving these por- 
tents. However, He has unveiled them to the hearts of those who have gnosis of Him farifun), 
thereby causing them to attain it [sincerity]. 

Tustarl shows gnosis {mar if a) to be beyond knowledge film), as is indicated when he glosses the 
words, but only those understand them [the similitudes] who know [29:43] with the words, ‘that is, those 
who have knowledge film) of God, Exalted is He, and especially those who have gnosis ( mdrifa ) of 
Him.’ Moreover, he states that it is by granting gnosis that God elevates the rank of whomever He 
wills. 180 This principle is endorsed when he comments on the words, And on the Heights are men 
[7:46], and indicates that another dimension of gnosis is the knowledge of the inner states of men: 
The People of the Heights are the people of gnosis {malrifa). God, Exalted is He, said: ...who 
know each by their mark [7:47]. Their standing is due to the honour (sharaf) they enjoy in the 
two abodes and with the inhabitants of both. . . [God] honoured them by allowing them to see 
into the secrets of His servants and their states in this world. 

Tustari also teaches that the attainment of matrifa is associated with the experience of suffering 
and need. For example, he states, ‘Truly affliction is a doorway between the people of gnosis (ahl 
al-matrifa) and God, Mighty and Majestic is He’, 181 and exhorts his disciples: 

Say in your supplication (du c df: ‘O my Lord, if you cook me, I’ll bear it and if you roast me, 
I’ll be happy. It is essential that You be known, so favour me with gnosis ( md rifa) of You’. 182 


179 IC, p. 6. 

180 Tafsir, 40:15. 

181 Tafsir, 29:1, 2. 

182 Tafsir, 21:83. See also the commentary on 47:38, where Tustari states that gnosis of the secret [divine] mystery is to be 
found entirely through a sense of neediness ( faqr ) [for God] . 


xliii 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Understanding (fahm ) is, like gnosis ( mdrifa ), shown in the Tafslr to be an aspect of esoteric 
knowledge, though unlike gnosis its locus is the intellect ( c aql ), as can be seen in the many cases 
when Tustari speaks of the three allied tendencies of the spiritual self ( nafs al-ruh ), the under- 
standing of the intellect {fahm al-aql ) and the discernment of the heart (fitnat al-qalb). m In this 
sense, understanding is among the pre-eternal gifts from God which assist the human being in 
overwhelming the natural or lower self: 

He [God] said, ‘Truly, We gave ascendancy ( sallatna ) over your dense natural self to the subtle 
[substances] (latddf) of your spiritual self, intellect, heart, and understanding (fahm), all of which 
pre-existed as a momentous gift (mawhiba jallla) before the creation appeared by a thousand 
years, and thus did they subdue the natural self. 184 
Often, however, the term ‘understanding’ (fahm ) is employed in a particular sense that is associated 
with the Qur an, 185 and indeed, in the Introduction to the Commentary there is a separate section 
devoted to those who ‘seek the understanding of the Qur an (fahm al-Qur an)'. In this section, 
understanding is shown to be, on the one hand, a full and wholehearted grasping of the meanings 
of the Quran, and particularly of its commands and prohibitions, as when Tustari states: ‘they have 
no way to Him save through the Qur’an, and through understanding [all] that has been addressed 
to them therein concerning that which is required of them. . ,’; 186 On the other hand, understanding 
is often more specifically associated with the comprehension of the inner meanings of the Qur an. 
In the same section of his introduction, he speaks of God’s teaching the Quran to His friends, both 
in its outer and inner aspects, and as was mentioned above, when asked by his disciples what he 
means by its ‘inner aspects’, he replies, ‘That is its understanding (fahm); and it is its understanding 
that is intended.’ 187 It will also be recalled that in Tustari’s definition of four levels of meaning in the 
Qur’an, he equated understanding (fahm) with the inward sense (batin). m Like gnosis, understand- 
ing is granted as a grace from God. Thus, commenting on the similitudes that We strike for the sake 
of mankind [29:43], he states: 

The similitudes which God strikes for man are available for everyone [to see] , since the evidences 
of [His] omnipotence ( qudra ) are [in themselves] proof of the [existence of] the Omnipotent. 
However, it is only His elect (khdssa) who fully understand them. Thus, knowledge is rare and 
understanding granted by God (fiqh c an Allah) even rarer. 

However, the prerequisite for such a bestowal from God is fulfilment of what is commanded by 
Him, as Tustari states: 

There are those who have been granted understanding by virtue of their maintaining the 
practice of what is commanded and the avoidance of what is forbidden, both inwardly and 
outwardly, and by their affirmation of it [the Qur’an] with the light of the insight of certainty 
(nur baslrat al-yaqln) ... 189 

Interestingly, Tustari also points out that human understanding (fahm) has limits — as does the 
intellect (aql), which will be discussed below, whereas he does not mention limits with regard 
to gnosis ( maTifa ). In the Introduction to the Commentary he states about the Qur’an, ‘It is that 
which is beautifully ordered in its outward form and profound in its inner meaning. It is, moreover, 
that before which all understanding (fahm) is powerless.’ 190 As we saw above, he also describes a 
state that is beyond understanding: 

183 See section 1 and diagram above. 

184 Tafslr, 94:5. Note that the understanding of the intellect was also present with the spiritual self and the discernment of 
the heart at the Covenant of Alast, without the presence of the natural self. See above, p. xl. 

185 As, for example, in the commentary on 2:269, 3 ‘7, 7:146, 29:43. 

186 IC, p. 5. See also the commentary on 19:61. 

187 IC, p. 7. 

188 IC, p. 2. 

189 IC, p. 3, as also is indicated in the commentary on the Basmala, IC, pp. 8-9. Conversely, acting arrogantly can result in 
a persons being deprived of the knowledge of the Qur'an, as is shown in Tustarls commentary on 7:146. 

190 IC, p. 1. 

xliv 


Introduction to the Translation 


The one who is close ( qarib ) [to God] has access to understanding (fahm ), conjecture ( wahm ) 
and interpretation ( tafsir ). But the one who is closest ( aqrab ) is beyond understanding, con- 
jecture and interpretation, and what is beyond that cannot be contained by expression ( Hbdra ) 
or allusion ( ishara ). 191 

The term ‘knowledge’ (Him) is employed in a number of ways in Tustari’s Tafsir. In some 
instances, he uses it in a general way when it is opposed to ignorance, as when he comments on the 
words, And He appointed darknesses and light [6:1], and states that its inner meaning is that ‘light 
is knowledge (Him) and darkness is ignorance (jahl )’; 192 or when he comments on 35:32, Yet among 
them is the one who has wronged himself ( zalim), the one who is moderate (muqtasid) and the one 
who is foremost in good deeds (sabiq), where he interprets the foremost as the one who is learned 
( c alim); the midmost as the one who is learning (mutatallim), and the one who has wronged himself 
as the one who is ignorant (jdhil). In another context he uses the metaphor of life and death, when 
he contrasts people’s knowledge with their ignorance of themselves (by which he means, perhaps, 
ignorance of their true human responsibility of realising the oneness of God): 

God, Exalted is He, created all creatures. Then He brought them to life by the name of life. Then 
He caused them to die by their ignorance of themselves. Those who live through knowledge 
are the living; otherwise they are dead through their ignorance. 193 
Usually, however, Tustari applies the word Him to an ‘outer’ knowledge of the oneness of God, of His 
commands and prohibitions and of the Sunna of the Prophet, as is evidenced by his admonitions 
concerning the need to put such knowledge into practice. Indeed, he repeatedly asserts that without 
being implemented, knowledge is not merely without benefit, it is detrimental, as when he states: 
This whole world consists of ignorance except for where knowledge is to be found. All knowl- 
edge is a testimony against [the one who possesses it], except for that which is acted upon. 194 
And again: 

Every possessor of knowledge ( c alim) who has been given knowledge of evil but does not avoid 
it is not a [true] possessor of knowledge. Similarly, whoever has been given knowledge of the 
acts of obedience but does not practise them is not a [true] possessor of knowledge. 195 
In a number of contexts, he also warns of the uselessness or danger of knowledge that is attained 
for purely worldly reasons. Here he is contrasting two attitudes among those who have an under- 
standing of the Quran: 

There are but two [kinds of] men who understand the Word [of God]: the first wants to under- 
stand so he can speak about it from a position [of authority] , and his lot is nothing but that; 
the other hears it and is occupied with acting upon it to the exclusion of all else. This person is 
rarer than red sulphur (al-kibrit al-ahmar) and more precious than all that is dear. 196 
In another context, it is related that a certain Abu Hamza al-Sufi visited Tustari and discussed with 
him the subject of intoxication. He informed Tustari that he had heard it said that intoxication was 
of four kinds: ‘The intoxication of drink, the intoxication of youth, the intoxication of wealth and 
the intoxication of authority.’ To this Tustari replies: 

There are two kinds of intoxication about which he did not inform you. . . : the intoxication of the 
scholar who loves this world, and the intoxication of the worshipper who loves to be noticed. 197 
The locus of knowledge is, according to Tustari, the intellect ( c aql ): 


191 Tafsir, 2:260. 

192 The verse is cited in his commentary on 3:106, in which he actually links knowledge to belief, and ignorance to disbelief. 

193 Tafsir, 16:21. 

194 Tafsir, 4:77. 

195 Tafsir, 11:88. 

196 Tafsir, 19:61. 

197 Tafsir, 16:67. See also his commentary on 23:17, where among seven veils which veil the believer from God, knowledge 
is named because of the vainglory it breeds among peers. 


xlv 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Know that God, Exalted is He, when He wished to make His knowledge apparent, deposited 
His knowledge in the intellect ( c aql ). Then He ruled that no one could have access to any of it 
[His knowledge] except through the intellect. Thus whoever has been deprived of his intellect 
has also been deprived of knowledge. 198 

Tustari’s saying that no one can have access to Gods knowledge ‘except through the intellect’ is an 
indication that he understands the intellect to be more than simply a repository of knowledge. In fact, 
the intellect has its own particular function, as can be seen in the many instances when the intellect 
or ‘understanding of the intellect (fahm aWaql)’ is associated with the spiritual self and the heart. 

It was seen that the heart should not be allowed to acquiesce in the desires of the lower self, 199 
but this does not indicate a dual nature for the heart. The intellect, however, does have a dual nature, 
according to Tustarl. Included in the context of 33:4, God has not placed two hearts inside any man, 
is the following observation: 

[That is, he does not have] one heart with which he approaches God, and another heart with 
which he manages the affairs of this world. [On the other hand], the intellect ( c aql ) does have 
two natures (tatfan): a nature which is orientated towards this world, and a nature which is 
orientated towards the Hereafter ( dkhira ). The nature which is orientated towards the Hereafter 
is in coalition ( muHalif) with the spiritual self ( nafs al-ruh ), whereas the worldly- orientated 
nature is in coalition with the lustful self ( nafs shahwaniyya). 

The side of the intellect that is oriented towards the Hereafter, therefore, has a key role to play in 
relation to the heart. In another part of his commentary on 3:28, Tustari explains: 

If [the servant] is involved in an act [motivated by] his lower self, and something comes to his 
heart which guides him to remembrance and obedience, that is the role played by the intellect 
( mawdi c al- c aql). 

This may be partly where the believer’s answerability will he, when at the Resurrection he is ques- 
tioned in relation to what he owes his intellect. 200 

Yet, despite the important role of c aql, the servant must also recognise its limitations. In his 
discussion of the locks on the heart mentioned in 47:24, Tustari explains that when God created the 
hearts He secured them with locks. The keys to those locks were the realities of faith, and the only 
ones who were vouchsafed the opening of their hearts through those realities were [God’s] friends 
( awliya "), messengers ( rusul ) 3 aS, and the veracious ( siddiqun ). The rest of people leave this world 
without the locks on their hearts being opened. He then adds: 

The renunciants ( zuhhad ), 201 devout worshippers ( c ubbad ), and scholars ( c ulamd 2 ) will leave this 
world with locked hearts because they sought the keys to them with the intellect ( c aql ), and thus 
strayed from the path. If only they had sought them by having recourse to divinely-bestowed 
success ( tawftq ) and grace (fadl ), they would have attained them [the keys]. 

In his commentary on the words, And He creates what you do not know [about] [16:8], he states: 
The inner meaning of these words [is that] God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has taught you 
to restrain yourself when your intellect ( c aql) fails to grasp the effects of His creation and the 
multifarious dimensions of [His] knowledge, so that it [your intellect] does not meet it with 
denial, for He has created what you do not know about, neither you nor anyone else among 
His creatures except those whom God has taught, Mighty and Majestic is He. 


198 Tafslr , 16:12. 

199 As was discussed above in relation to Adams banishment from Paradise, above p. xxxv. 

200 See above, p. xxxvi. 

201 The term zuhd is often translated as asceticism, though it is more precisely a renunciation and disdain for the world. 
Michael Cooperson, in his book Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophets in the Age ofal-Ma’mun (Cambridge, 
2000), has coined the word renunciant’ as a translation of the word zahid (pi. zuhhad). 


xlvi 


Introduction to the Translation 


As can be seen from the two passages above, Tustarl teaches that there is a knowledge of 
unseen things or realities which God imparts not to all, but to a select few of His creatures. 202 In 
another context, when he is commenting on those who are rooted in knowledge (al-rasikhuna 
fi’l- c ilm), mentioned in 3:7, he discusses three categories of knowledge and four different ways in 
which God imparts knowledge (and here the term knowledge [dim] is clearly not being restricted 
to an outer level). He observes that those rooted in knowledge are shown to be exceptional because 
of their saying, according to the verse: ‘All is from our Lord ’ and he then explains that they (the 
rasikhuna ft’l-ilm) reveal three kinds of knowledge, since those who know may be designated in 
three ways: rabbaniyyun , nuraniyyun and dhatiyyun. The precise nature of the connection Tustari 
intends between each of these kinds of knowers and the divine lordliness, light and essence is not 
made clear by these allusive terms. 203 However, given that he has specified about these three kinds 
of knowers of God that they say, ‘All is from our Lord’, we might render them somewhat freely as: 
‘those whose knowledge derives from, or is through, the divine lordliness, light and essence’, respec- 
tively. 204 Another approach would be to interpret these three designations of knowledge as being 
manifestations of the divine lordliness, light and essence. 205 Tustari discusses these three categories 
of knowers of God ( rabbaniyyun , nuraniyyun and dhatiyyun ) once more in his commentary on 3:79, 
with a particular focus on the rabbani. Here again the context suggests a kind of knowledge that 
is received directly from God, a knowledge through God’s knowledge, which Tustari here subtly 
compares to prophetic knowledge. Thus he cites the QuTanic words, She asked, ‘Who told you this?’ 
He said, ‘I was told by the All-Knowing, the Aware’ [66:3], and adds, ‘Anyone who informs you of 
something which conforms to the Book and the Sunna, is ‘an informant’ ( munbf )’. Hence Tustari 
is also suggesting that an aspect of the rabbani knowledge is its transmission to others, and this is 
confirmed by a saying of All b. Abi Talib that he cites in this context, where the ‘knower whose 
knowledge derives from the divine lordliness’ ( c alim rabbani ) is contrasted with ‘the one acquiring 
knowledge’ {mutdallim). Returning to his commentary on 3:7, we find that after Tustari has discussed 
three of the highest modes of knowing, or of receiving knowledge from God, he then presents a 
different scheme comprising four modes of divinely-bestowed knowledge. These are: revelation 
( wahy ), theophany ( tajalli ), ‘knowledge directly bestowed by God’ {Hndi) and ‘knowledge from 
the divine presence’ ( ladunni ). 


202 This was also mentioned above in relation to the understanding of the inner meanings of the Qur'an. See above, p. xxvii. 

203 Bowering’s translation of the three designations in his Mystical Vision (pp. 227-9) reads: ‘those who perceive God as 
Lord, those who perceive God as Light and those who perceive God as Essence’. 

204 The idea of ‘knowing’ or ‘perceiving’ the essence of God is problematic, since not only theologians but most Sufis con- 
sider the divine essence to be unknowable. In other instances in the Tafsir, when mentioning some connection with 
the divine essence, Tustari appears to be cautious, as in his discussions of certainty ( Tafsir , 2:40 and 41), which will be 
discussed below. A passage quoted from Tustari in the chapter on Tawhid in QushayrI’s Risala may be helpful here: 
‘The essence of God may be characterised ( mawsufa ) through knowledge {Him), not grasped through comprehension 
( ghayr mudraka bil-ihata ), nor seen by human eyes ( marHya bil-absar ) in this world, though it is found ( mawjuda ) 
through the realities of faith (haqaHq al-iman), without any limit ( hadd ), comprehending ( ihata ) or indwelling ( hulul ). 
In the Hereafter eyes will see it manifested in His dominion and omnipotence. He has veiled the creatures from gnosis 
( ma c rifa ) of the profundity ( kunh ) of His essence, but He gives them an indication to it ( dallahum c alayhi ) by His signs. . .’ 
QushayrI, Risala, p. 565. 

205 In Chapter 58 of the Kitab al-Ta c arruf, ‘On Manifestation (or theophany, tajalli ) and Veiling (istitar)\ KalabadhI opens his 
discourse with the following saying attributed to Tustari: ‘Manifestation has three ‘degrees’ ( ahwal ): a manifestation of 
[the] essence {dhat), which is unveiling ( mukashafa ); a manifestation of the attributes of the essence ( sifat al-dhat ), which 
is illumination (mawdf al-nur ); and a manifestation of the decree [or power] of the essence {hukm al-dhat ), which is 
the Hereafter and what it entails’ See also the Qut al-qulub , vol. 2, pp. 142-3, where MakkI states that God has elevated 
His essence above hearts ( qulub ) and [modes of] thought ( afkar ); it can neither be imagined through the intellect ( c aql ) 
nor depicted through thought (fikr ) lest fanciful supposition ( wahm ) should take hold of it.’ He continues by saying that 
God’s essence cannot be contemplated by any thought, understood by any intellect or perceived by any comprehension, 
unless or until it be by a manifestation ( tajalli ) through His beneficence ( ihsan ), as in the first place He had manifested 
[it] through His loving compassion {hanan). This manifestation, MakkI states, may be to His friends today (i.e. in this 
fife) through the lights of certainty ( anwar al-yaqin) in [their] hearts, whereas it will be a visual beholding of the eyes 
{mu Q ayanat al-absar) tomorrow (in the Hereafter). 


xlvii 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Tustarl speaks of divinely-bestowed knowledge in other contexts, often using the image of 
light, where knowledge is particularly associated with guidance from God. For example, in the 
Introduction to the Commentary he is quoted as saying, ‘According to the measure of light which 
has been allotted to a person by God, Exalted is He, he will find guidance for his heart and insight 
(basira)! 206 ln his commentary on the words, Those are upon guidance from their Lord [2:5], he states: 
By the light of His guidance hearts witness Him in confident abandonment to Him due to a 
light from His light, by which He singled them out in His pre-eternal knowledge. Thus they 
do not speak except with guidance, and their inner perception is solely directed towards that 
guidance. So those who are guided by [this light] are never left by it. Thus they are [constant] 
witnesses to it because they are never absent from it. 

Tustari also speaks of his own experience of this direct guidance from God, as when he states, as 
noted above, ‘Indeed, God willing, I have been granted wisdom and [knowledge of] the unseen 
which I was taught from the unseen of His secret ( min ghayh sirrihi), and thus He sufficed me from 
the need for all other knowledge. . .’ 207 

In these passages, Tustarl is indicating a profound and arcane connection between the depths 
of human consciousness and God, and he consistently employs allusive terms to describe such 
mystical experiences, as, for example in the following statement: 

In reality, the servant only beholds ( yanzuru ) God by means of a subtle ‘substance’ ( latifa ), 
through its connection to his heart. This subtle substance pertains to the attributes of the 
Essence of his Lord. It is neither brought into being ( mukawwana ), nor created ( makhluqa ), 
neither conjunct [with God] ( mawsula ), nor cut off [from Him] ( maqtu c a ). It is a secret ( sirr ) 
from a secret to a secret, an unseen [mystery] ( ghayb ) from an unseen to an unseen. 208 
We find an analogous mode of expression in Tustari’s discussions of certainty ( yaqin ). Thus in the 
continuation of the above passage, he states: 

Certainty (yaqin) is through God, and the servant finds certainty due to a cause ( sabab ) that 
comes directly from Him to the servant, according to the measure of the gifts that God has 
apportioned him, and the wholeness of his innermost heart (suwaydcb qalbihi ). 

Tustarl discusses certainty in a number of passages in the Tafsir, showing it to be beyond 
knowledge, and to be an advanced form of faith. Certainty also has degrees. Thus in the context of 
his commentary on Abraham’s request that God show him how He gives life to the dead [2:260], 
Tustarl is asked if Abraham was in doubt concerning his faith, and was therefore making this request 
of God in order to restore his faith, he answers: 

His question was not out of doubt; he was merely asking for an increase in certainty ( ziyada 
yaqin ) to the faith he already had. Thus he asked for an unveiling of the cover of visual behold- 
ing with his physical eyes, so that by the light of certainty, his own certainty regarding God’s 
omnipotence might be increased, and [his certainty] regarding His creative [power] might 
be consolidated... [Therefore] the request for profound peace of mind (; tuma’nina ) signified a 
request for an increase in his certainty. 

A detailed explanation of the degrees of certainty and its relation to faith is outlined when Tustarl 
comments on the word rahba, meaning ‘awe’ in 2:40. He observes that endurance and struggle 
are part of faith when it is ‘for the sake of’ God ( iman li’Llah). But when the heart ceases to have 
fear of any other than God, and is therefore in a state of true awe (rahba) towards Him, then the 
light of certainty is unveiled. Then the servant, who had been abiding in faith ‘for the sake of’ God, 
attains the level of faith ‘through’ God (iman bi’Llah). At this level, his affirmation of the oneness 
of God has reached a point of stability, and his heart is in a state of tranquil and confident repose 
with God. Then he is taken to a deeper realisation of certainty when, as Tustarl explains, ‘the light 
of certainty (nur al-yaqin) unveils the knowledge of the eye of certainty (Him c ayn al-yaqin) and 

206 IC, p. 4. 

207 Tafslr, 2:3. 

208 Tafslr, 2:41. 


xlviii 


Introduction to the Translation 


this is the attainment of God.’ 209 But this certainty that leads to the eye of certainty is not something 
that is brought into being ( mukawwan ) or created ( makhluq ); it is rather ‘a light from the light of 
the essence of God’. Here, lest he be misunderstood, Tustari adds that what he means by this is 
not any ‘indwelling ( hulul ), conjoining (jam 1 ) or conjunction ( ittisdl ) with God; rather it is due to 
the true realisation of God’s oneness ( tawhid ) and obedience to God and His Prophet’. He further 
explains that according to the strength of the servant’s perception ( basar ) of God (i.e. his certainty), 
he will attain both awe ( rahba ) and full awareness of God ( taqwa ). We also find that he associates 
the eye of certainty’ with a wholeness, an ‘all-ness’ or entirety of perception — on three occasions 
when he speaks of c ayn al-yaqin he follows it with the words wa kulliyyatihi . 210 Tustari sums up the 
importance of certainty at the end of this passage when he states: 

Know that human beings will vary in rank on the Day of Resurrection according to the measure 
of the light of certainty that they possess. The weightier the certainty a person has, the heavier 
will his scales weigh [in his favour], even though there might [otherwise] be less in his scales. 

F. The Spiritual Path 

1. Precepts and proprieties 

In the preceding sections we have discussed some passages in which Tustari shows glimpses of 
the experiences of certainty and mystical unveiling that might be encountered by those who are 
advanced on the spiritual path. But in the Tafsir we also find numerous passages in which he 
presents instruction for aspirants, to guide them from the most elementary stages through to the 
highest attainments of the Way. 

All important is, of course, the opposing and controlling of the lower self ( nafs ) and its desires, 
which was alluded to in some passages on spiritual psychology discussed above. The following is an 
example of a specific exhortation to control the self (or lower or natural self), which constitutes a 
metaphorical interpretation of the words, It is He who has made the earth tractable for you. . . [67:15] : 
God, Exalted is He, created the souls in a humble state. Whoever subdues ( adhalla ) his self 
by opposing it, actually saves it from temptations, tribulations and trials. However, whoever 
debases ( adhalla ) his self and follows it, will be brought to humiliation and destroyed by it. 

In other passages, Tustari interprets holy war (jihad ) as the struggle or battle with the lower self. 
Thus, he states: 

All forms of obedience to God involve struggle with the lower self (jihad al-nafs). There is no 
struggle easier than the struggle with swords, and no struggle harder than opposing the lower 
self. 211 

When someone asked him, ‘I have wealth and strength and I want to perform jihad. What do you 
command me to do?’ he answered: 

Wealth is knowledge (dim), strength is intention ( niya ) and jihad is the struggle with the lower 
self (mujahadat al-nafs ). 212 


209 Here also Tustari is clearly not using the term Him in an outer sense. The juxtaposition of the ‘knowledge of certainty’ 
{Him al-yaqin ) and the ‘eye of certainy’ ( c ayn al-yaqin ) have their origin in the Qur’an 102:5 and 7, and in the latter verse 
the expression c ayn al-yaqin is actually used, and suggests a degree of certainty that is as direct and immediate as seeing 
with the eyes (see the passage cited above, p. xxxvii, regarding the meaning of the expression of Hy an al-Hyan derived 
from the same verbal root c -y-n). In later Islamic mysticism a further degree of certainty was added, that of the ‘truth of 
certainty’ {haqq al-yaqin ), an expression that is also to be found in the Qur’an, 56:95 and 69:51. On the development of 
terminology denoting different levels of experienced or realised truth and certainty, see Nasrollah Pourjavady, ‘Parvana 
u atash: sayr-i tahawwul-i yik tamthil-i c irfanl dar adabiyyat-i Farsi’, Nashr-i Danish, Year 16, no. 2 (1999), pp. 3-15. 

210 Tafsir, 2:40, 41; 102:7. 

211 Tafsir, 8:72. 

212 Tafsir, 16:110. 


xlix 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


In another metaphorical interpretation, this time of the words, O Prophet, struggle against the 
disbelievers and the hypocrites [9:73], he states: 

Struggle against your lower self with the sword of opposition! Place upon its [back] the bur- 
dens of remorse ( nadam ), and guide it through the desert plains of fear ( khawf ), so that you 
may turn it back to the path of repentance ( tawba ) and contrition ( indba ). Repentance is not 
acceptable save from one who feels perplexed at his concerns, and grief- stricken at heart due 
to what has befallen him. 

In the latter passage Tustarl has associated opposing the lower self with repentance. Like other 
Sufis, he sees repentance (tawba) as an initial step on the way, 213 and so he says, ‘The first thing that 
a novice is instructed to do is to change his reprehensible actions into praiseworthy ones, which 
is repentance.’ 214 However, in his commentary on this same verse [9:112] he insists that repentance 
should be perpetual: 

Of the rights [due to God] in this world there is none whose fulfilment is more incumbent upon 
humanity than repentance. Indeed it is obligatory [for them] at every moment and instant, and 
there is no punishment severer on them than the lack of knowledge of repentance. 215 
In a similar vein, he emphasises the need for vigilance and self scrutiny. For example, he states: 
The real believer is the one who is not heedless of his lower self and his heart, but scrutinises 
his states ( ahwal ), and keeps a close watch over his moments ( awqat ). He observes his increase 
[in a good state, distinguishing it] from his decline, and shows gratitude on seeing an increase, 
but when there is a decline devotes himself [to remedying it] and makes supplication. 216 
And elsewhere: 

The capital (refs al-mal) of wisdom consists of three things: the first is disciplining the lower 
self ( riyadat al-nafs) concerning things which are reprehensible; the second is emptying one’s 
heart of any love for carnal lusts ( shahawat ); and the third is standing guard over one’s heart 
by warding off [unwarranted] thoughts which occur to it ( khatarat ). Moreover, whoever is 
mindful of God when [unwarranted] thoughts [come upon] his heart, will have [God] protect 
him in his bodily acts. 217 

Tustari supplies numerous practical rules and guidelines for the spiritual life. Like many Sufis, he 
recommends fasting, seclusion and the night vigil, though he also advocates silence: 

All goodness comes together in four things: ... an empty stomach, seclusion from people, the 
night vigil, and observing silence. 218 

He describes hunger as ‘one of God’s secrets’, 219 and states, ‘God, Exalted is He, created the world 
and placed knowledge and wisdom within hunger, and placed ignorance and transgression within 
satiety.’ 220 Apart from these particularly rigorous disciplines, Tustarl generally advocates a simple 
life for aspirants. He warns against four traits that will prevent the aspirant from attaining anything: 
‘If he likes to eat tasty food, dress in fine clothes, see his commands executed and his possessions 
increase.’ 221 When asked to define the proprieties of the Way he states: 


213 In several Sufi manuals tawba is presented as the first stage on the Path, as for example in the Risala of Qushayri, where 
it is the first among the stations ( maqamat ), and the Manazil al-sa'irln of c Abd Allah al-Ansari (Cairo, 1962), where it 
is second only after awakening ( yaqza ). 

214 Tafslr, 9:112. 

215 See above, p. xix, where Sarraj, among others, suggested that it was Tustarl s insistence on the obligatory nature of 
repentance, to which the person who had him expelled from Tustar took objection. 

216 Tafslr, 48:25. 

217 Tafslr, 2:269. 

218 Tafslr, 10:62. 

219 Tafslr, 7:31. 

220 ibid. 

221 Tafslr, 15:3. 


1 


Introduction to the Translation 


[It is that you should] let your food be barley, your sweetmeat dates, your condiment salt, your 
fat yoghurt. You should let your clothes be of wool, your houses be mosques, your source of 
light the sun, your lamp the moon, your perfume water, your splendour be in cleanliness and 
your adornment wariness ( hadhr ) [of God]. Moreover, you should let your work consist in 
being content ( irtidal ) — or he said: contentment ( rida ) — , your journey’s provision (zdd) be 
piety, your eating be at night, your sleep in the day, your speech be remembrance (dhikr), your 
resolve ( samma ) and your aspiration ( himma ) be for contemplation ( tafakkur ), your reflective 
thought ( nazar ) be to take example ( dbra ), and your refuge ( maljal ) and the one who helps 
you (nasir) be your Lord. Persevere in this until you die . 222 
In the above passage Tustarl has combined instructions for the practical side of life as well as giving 
guidelines for spiritual conduct. The Tafsir also contains a great number of short passages present- 
ing different prescriptions and formulae for the spiritual life. Just a few examples will be cited here: 
The backbone ( qiwdm ) of religion and this world is in three things: knowledge {dim), propriety 
{adab) and initiative ( mubadara ). However, the ruin of religion and this world comes from 
three things: ignorance ( jahl ), folly ( khurq ) and laziness ( kasal ). 223 

There are four things which are among the buttresses (da c aHm) of religion: to uphold the truth 
even against your own self and others; to renounce falsehood in yourself or others; to love 
people who are obedient to God and to detest those who disobey Him . 224 
Here he lists six vices and six virtues: 

The servant will not get the taste of faith until he quits six vices [lit. character traits, khisdl ] : he 
should quit what is forbidden ( hardm ), illegal possessions {suhut), what is dubious ( shubha ), 
ignorance {jahl), intoxicantfs] {muskir), and ostentation {riyd\ [on the other hand] he should 
adhere to [six virtues] : knowledge {dim), putting his actions right {tashih al-amal), integrity of 
heart {nash bi’l-qalb), veracity of the tongue {sidq bi’l-lisdn), correct conduct {salah) in associat- 
ing with people, and sincerity {ikhlas) in the way he deals with his Lord . 225 
And here he outlines the fundamentals of worship: 

The basis of worship is the profession of God’s oneness ( tawhid ) along with living according to 
what is lawful, while avoiding the harm [of others] {kaff al-adha) . Furthermore, a person can- 
not accomplish living by what is lawful without abandoning the harm of others, and likewise 
he does not abandon causing harm save through living by what is lawful. If you know how 
to abide by what is lawful, how to abandon causing harm, and the [correct] intention {niya) 
behind actions, as well as you know the Fdtiha, then your faith will become pure, as will your 
hearts and bodily members. Indeed, these are the fundamentals . 226 
And here he defines three modes of excellence: 

The most ascetic ( azhad ) of people are those who have the purest source of food; the most devout 
{ab c ad) of people are those who are most earnest in their effort to uphold His commandments 
and prohibitions; and the most beloved {ahabb) of them to God are those who are the sincerest 
{ansahuhum) towards His creatures . 227 

Noticeable among these precepts and guidelines is Tustarl’s concern with correct conduct towards 
others, and avoidance of harm to them. In other passages he specifically focuses on this. For exam- 
ple, he states: 


222 Tafsir, 7:172. 

223 Tafsir, 4:171. 

224 ibid. 

225 Tafsir, 48:25. 

226 Tafsir, 3:64. The Fdtiha is the first sura of the Qur'an, which is recited in each rak c a of the canonical prayer. 

227 Tafsir, 6:52. 


li 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


The earth will not consume the body of anyone who keeps the following three qualities: refrain- 
ing from harming people, bearing the harm that comes from them and doing good to them. 228 
And here he states the same idea, this time using the earth as a simile. 

Know that the servant does not attain true faith ( haqiqat al-lmdn) until he becomes as the 
earth for the servants of God — it endures the suffering that they [impose] upon it and they 
[derive] benefits from it. 229 

Tustari also warns more than once against judging or criticising others. For example, he observes: 
No one looks upon the slips of [other] people except an ignorant wrongdoer, and no one [may] 
make known that which he has looked upon [of the faults of others] except God. 230 
In his commentary on the words and shun much suspicion [49:12], he further warns against hold- 
ing a ‘bad opinion ( su 2 al-zann ) of others, and when asked to explain in this context a hadith of 
the Prophet, ‘Be on your guard with people, [by holding a] bad opinion (su 2 al-zann)] he replies: 
The meaning of this is [that protection from people] is [through holding a] bad opinion of 
yourself, not of other people. In other words, accuse your own self for not treating them fairly 
in your dealings with them. 

He continues with an explanation of the psychology of ‘bad opinion, in which he mentions not only 
holding a bad opinion of other human beings, but also of God: 

Bad opinion comes from ignorance and pertains to the natural self ( nafs al-tab c ).The most 
ignorant person is the one who estranges his heart [from God] without being aware of it. Indeed, 
God, Exalted is He, has said: And that suspicion of yours which you held about your Lord has 
ruined you, so you have become among the losers [41:23]. Certainly, the servant is deprived of 
blessed provision and prayer at night because of bad opinion. 

The rewards for holding a ‘good or beautiful opinion’ (husn al-zann ) of God, however, are immense, 
as Tustari shows. He discusses husn al-zann in two quite different ways. The first occurs in the 
context of a discussion of God’s forgiveness in the commentary on 4:48: 

If no one has any grievance against him, and his sins are only between him and God, Exalted is 
He, indeed He forgives those sins, for He is the Magnanimous, the Generous. It has been related 
from the Prophet SI that he said, ‘A servant maybe brought forward on the Day of Resurrection 
and directed to the Fire, but then he will say, ‘This is not in accordance with what I supposed 
[my outcome would be].’ 231 Then God, Mighty and Majestic is He, will ask, ‘What was your 
opinion of Me?’ to which he will reply, ‘That You would forgive me’, upon which God, Mighty 
and Majestic is He, will say, ‘Truly I have forgiven you’, and He will direct him to Paradise. 
Here, husn al-zann is being shown as the means to salvation in the Hereafter, but in another context 
in the Tafsir, husn al-zann is shown to be the means to the most immediate experience of proximity 
with God. This particular, mystical understanding of husn al-zann is presented in the poem which 
was already cited above, the first line of which indicates that good opinion can be a means to ‘direct 
or face-to-face encounter’ ( kifdh ) with God, and that it traverses every veil. The first two couplets 
of this allusive and evocative poem may be rendered as follows: 

The abundant sufficiency ( kifdydt ) of direct encounter [with God] (kifdh), 

[attained] through my good opinion of Him, 

Is like the spider’s web covering the cave’s entrance. 

Good opinion has traversed every veil, 

Good opinion has traversed beyond the light of fire 232 


228 Tafsir, 76:5. 

229 Tafsir, 9:71. 

230 Tafsir, 83:1. See also the commentary on 49:12. 

231 lit. ‘This is not in accordance with my opinion ( ma kadha zanni ).’ 

232 The poem follows the commentary on 2:260. 


lii 


Introduction to the Translation 


The meaning of husn al-zann here is not clear, though it might be described as the soul’s being 
predisposed for complete reliance upon, and confidence in, God. This may also be seen in another 
context where Tustari links husn al-zann with certainty ( yaqin ). 233 When asked how one might 
know the soundness of a persons certainty he replies, ‘By the strength of his confidence ( thiqa ) in 
God, Exalted is He, and his good opinion (husn al-zann ) of Him. 234 Husn al-zann is thus the soul’s 
reaching a state of complete readiness, openness and receptivity, a state in which God may suffice 
for it in bringing it to Him. So Tustari cites a tradition of the Prophet: 

‘Yesterday I saw an amazing thing; a servant between whom and God there was a veil, but then 
when his good opinion of God appeared, He drew him in from behind the veil’. 235 

2. Emulation and aspiration 

Tustari often speaks of the importance of emulation ( iqtidal ) without always mentioning who is to 
be emulated and whose example is to be followed. Clearly, the first example to be followed is the 
Prophet through his Sunna, as Tustari emphasises on many occasions, including the following: 
The believer has one face, without a reverse side; he makes repeated [advances] and never 
retreats. You will see him striving for the cause of God’s religion and His obedience, upholding 
God’s oneness and the following of His Prophet fg, constantly making humble entreaty of God 
and seeking refuge in Him in the hope of connecting to Him through following [exemplary 
guidance] ( iqdida ’). 236 

However, in the following passage he does not state who is to be followed: 

The livelihood ( c aysh ) of angels is in obedience ( tala ); the livelihood of the prophets is in 
knowledge and waiting for relief; and the livelihood of the veracious (siddiqun) is in emula- 
tion ( iqtida ’). 237 

While Tustari shows the Prophet to be the supreme model for the believers, he also describes 
others whom he wishes to be seen as examples to be emulated. In some cases, he indicates their 
position in the spiritual hierarchy among successors to the Prophet, as when he observes that the 
veracious ( siddiqun ) are ‘heirs to the secrets of their [the prophets’] sciences’. 238 They have attained 
the stage in which they speak only in four ways: ‘in God, through God, for God and with God’. He 
understands the foremost mentioned in 56:10, as follows: 

They are those for whom God’s election ( ikhtiydr ) and special friendship ( wildya ) preceded 
them before they were even brought into existence. The ones who are brought near [to God] 
[56:11] are in stations of proximity ( manazil al-qurb), and [enjoy] the ease of intimacy ( rawh 
al-uns). They are the ones who were the foremost ( sabaqu ) in this life. The prophets were the 
foremost in having faith in God. The veracious ( siddiqun ) and martyrs ( shuhada ’) among the 
Companions and others were the foremost in having faith in the prophets. 

In another passage it is those who are sincere and mindful of God ( al-mukhlisun al-muttaqun ) who 
are portrayed as the best among the community: 

The best among people are the Muslims, the best among Muslims are the [true] believers, the 
best among believers are the scholars who act upon their knowledge, the best among those 
who act [upon their knowledge] are the fearful ( khadfun ), and the best among the fearful are 
those who are sincere and mindful of God ( al-mukhlisun al-muttaqun), whose sincerity and 
mindfulness of God remains with them up until their death. 239 


233 And it is worth noting that the poem itself occurs as part of Tustari s lengthy commentary on 2:260, which discusses 
Abrahams desire for an increase in certainty. See above, IT, p. xlviii. 

234 Tafsir, 2:40. 

235 Tafsir, 2:260. 

236 Tafsir, 22:11. 

237 Tafsir, 2:197. 

238 Tafsir, 58:22. 

239 Tafsir, 48:26. 


liii 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


A part of emulation is the desire to be close to those who have attained proximity with God, to 
whom Tustari often refers as the ‘friends’ ( awliya ') of God. Thus, in his commentary on part of the 
prayer of Solomon, and include me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants [27:19] , he explains: 
This means, ‘Grant me proximity to Your friends (awliya') so that I may be among their com- 
pany, even though I have not reached their station ( maqdm )’. 

We have seen also that in his commentary on 7:172, Tustari explains that the seekers ( muridun ) 
were created from the light of Adam 8SB, while the [divinely] sought ( muradun ) were created from 
the light of Muhammad M- Following this statement he observes: 

Thus, the generality among people live under the mercy of the people of proximity (ahl al-qurb ) 
and the people of proximity live under the mercy of the one brought near ( al-muqarrab ) — 
With their light shining forth before them and on their right [57:12]. 240 

Apart from passages which exhort seekers to emulate, or keep close to, those who have attained 
spiritual perfection, friendship and proximity with God, there are also passages which describe 
qualities and virtues to which they should aspire, such as veracity ( sidq ), 241 patience or forbearance 
( sabr ), 242 and humility. On the virtue of the latter he states that ‘pure servanthood is self-abasement 
( dhull ) and humble submission ( khushuff 43 while in his commentary on the story of Korah (Qarun) 
he states: 

The fortunate person ( sa c id ) is he who averts his eye from [looking upon] his states and acts; 
to him is opened the way of receiving grace (fadl ) and being gracious to [others] ( ifdal ), whilst 
keeping sight of God’s favour in [the accomplishment of] all acts. 244 
Closely related to humility is poverty (faqr ), by which is not meant the outer poverty of not owning 
things (discussed above), but an inner sense of poverty or utter neediness ( iftiqar ) vis-a-vis God’s 
infinite wealth, plenitude and lack of need ( istighnd '). Thus when he comments on the words O 
mankind! It is you who stand in need of God [35:15], Tustari states: 

That is, ‘You [depend] upon Him in your very selves, for truly when God created all creatures, 
He imposed upon His servants neediness (faqr) for Him, while He is the Rich and Independ- 
ent (al-Ghani) . Furthermore, whoever claims to be wealthy has been veiled from God, Mighty 
and Majestic is He. On the other hand, whoever shows his need for God, will find that He 
joins his need to His wealth. 

In his commentary on the words: You will not attain mindfulness of God until you expend of 
that which you love [3:92], Tustari finds an opportunity to discuss the quality or state of love, which 
he illustrates with a story about Jesus, who successively meets three groups of people. The first, 
with emaciated bodies and pale faces, when questioned by Jesus, explain that their state has been 
brought about through the fear ( khawfl of God. He tells them that they will be granted safety from 
that which they fear. The second group of people he encounters are even more emaciated than the 
first. They inform him that their state is due to their yearning (shawq) for God, and he tells them 
that God has made it incumbent upon Himself to grant them that which they long for. Finally he 
comes across a group who are even more emaciated, but whose faces are radiant like full moons. 
When questioned by Jesus, they reveal that their condition is due to love (hubb). Jesus tells them 
three times that they are the people of proximity (muqarrabun) . Tustari then adds, ‘Thus, whoever 
loves God, Exalted is He, is one of the people of proximity, for if anyone loves something, they 
hasten towards it.’ 


240 The one brought near being Muhammad. 

241 e.g. Tafslr , 33:8 and 19:52. 

242 Tafslr, 103:3, for example. 

243 Tafslr, 35:15. 

244 Tafslr, 28:78. 


liv 


Introduction to the Translation 


3. Trust, mindfulness of God and sincerity 
Three spiritual qualities or virtues which Tustari particularly stresses in the Tafsir are: trust, that is, 
complete trust in God ( tawakkul ); ‘mindfulness’ or ‘full awareness of God’ ( taqwd ); and sincerity 
( ikhlds ), which means making all one’s actions purely for God, and freeing oneself from all other 
than Him. These three qualities are themselves often linked both to each other and to other quali- 
ties, as we shall see. 

Tustari defines trust ( tawakkul ) as the first of four pillars of faith, 245 and as the last of seven 
‘lines’ of faith that God inscribes upon the hearts of His friends. 246 One of his longest discussions 
of tawakkul occurs in his commentary on the words, So turn away from them, and put your trust 
in God [4:81]. Here, he defines trust as ‘a means of livelihood ( c aysh ) for those who possess it’, and 
further states that the divine omnipotence ( qudra ) will not become apparent save to the one who has 
complete trust. In the section on mystical theology above, mention was made of Tustari’s teaching 
that the downfall of human beings lies in reliance on their own devising and management ( tadbir ), 
and that they must therefore look only to God for the management of their affairs. This latter involves 
their realising that all power ( hawl ) and strength ( quwwa ) belongs to God. In this same discussion 
of trust in the context of 4:81, he explains that it involves three things: ‘submission of the body in 
servanthood, attachment of the heart to the divine lordliness ( rububiyya ), and disclaiming all power 
and strength.’ He also shows trust to be closely related to the state of sukun, that is, the servant’s 
tranquil reliance on God and complete acquiescence in what God has destined for him. He states 
that trust has a thousand ranks, the lowest of which is the ability to walk upon air. 247 When asked 
how that level might be reached, he states: 

The first thing is gnosis (mar if a), then affirmation ( iqrdr ), then the profession of God’s oneness 
(tawhid), then submission ( isldm ), then the perfection of faith ( ihsdn ), then the committing of 
one’s affairs [to God] ( tafwid ), then trust (tawakkul), and finally the state of tranquil reliance 
(sukun) on God, Mighty and Majestic is He, in every situation. 248 
Elsewhere Tustari shows tawakkul to be connected to other qualities and capacities. For example, 
when asked about the reality (haqiqa) of trust, he replies: ‘It is to be at ease (istirsdl) with whatever 
God wants’. 249 Hence it is close to the quality of contentment (rida). This connection is clearly 
illustrated by the following statement: 

God is content with your performing for Him just a day’s worship at a time, so be content with 
Him for the provision you receive a day at a time. 250 
A similar admonition is to be found when Tustari discusses different ways in which the servants of 
God might worship, ending with the one who worships with equity or justice (insdf), that is, one 
who does full justice to worship. Asked to explain insdf in worship, he answers: 

It is that none of your bodily members moves unless it be for God. Furthermore, when you 
ask Him for the next day’s provision your equity has left you, for the heart cannot bear two 
concerns (hammayn ). 251 

In other words, Tustari is here associating tawakkul, that is, not asking for the next day’s provision, 
with equity, which is acting only for God and being concerned with none other than Him, and 
this, as we shall see, is also how he understands sincerity. Tustari also links tawakkul with taqwd 
(mindfulness of God), when he states, ‘Trust in God is not admissible from anyone except those 


245 Tafsir, 3:200. The other three pillars are complete submission ( istislam ) to Gods commands; contentment (rida) with 
what God has preordained, and gratitude ( shukr ) for His blessings. These, Tustari adds, are accompanied by mindfulness 
of God (taqwd). 

246 Tafsir, 58:22. 

247 This is another indication that Tustari did not attach any particular importance to charismatic gifts. See above, p. xx. 

248 Again, this occurs in the commentary on 4:81. 

249 Tafsir, 12:67. 

250 Tafsir, 51:22. 

251 Tafsir, 36:11. 


lv 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


who are mindful of God, and mindfulness of God is not acceptable except with trust in God.’ 252 In 
another context, Tustarl compares mindfulness of God ( taqwa ) and certainty ( yaqln ) to the two 
pans of a pair of scales, while trust ( tawakkul ) is the pointer which indicates increase and decrease 
in the other two. 253 

Many passages in the Tafslr emphasise the importance of taqwa, and the need to ‘fear’ or be 
fully aware and mindful of God. For example, in his lengthy commentary on the words, So fear Me, 
O people of pith [2:197] he states: 

Whoever hopes for God’s favour ( karama ), Mighty and Majestic is He, should be mindful of 
Him, for truly it is through mindfulness of God that [the servant] may attain His favour and 
admittance into Paradise, abide in His vicinity, and triumph with a tremendous victory. 
Taqwa is, in Tustari’s words, ‘the best travelling companion leading to the remembrance ( dhikr ) of 
God’. 254 Elsewhere, he links taqwa to sincerity ( ikhlas ), as when he states in a passage cited above: 
‘the best among the fearful are those who are sincere and mindful of God ( al-mukhlisun al-muttaqun ) 
whose sincerity and mindfulness of God remains with them up until their death.’ 255 

The different resonances of the Arabic word used for sincerity, ikhlas, which in its root ( kh-l-s ) 
can have the meaning of both ‘being pure and unmixed’ and ‘becoming free of’, are illustrated 
in Tustari’s discussions of the term in his Tafslr. The importance of this quality, state or station is 
emphasised in many contexts. 256 For example, among the list of aphorisms which appear at the 
end of the Tafslr is the recommendation, ‘You must have sincerity ( ikhlas ) to keep you safe from 
[satanic] whispering’. 257 Elsewhere, he recommends, ‘Seek sincerity with an [inner] intention, for 
only the sincere can recognise ostentation (riya’). 25S In another context he warns that discernment 
(fitna) is not attained through effort, but by acting with sincerity for God. 259 

We have seen that sincerity ( ikhlas ) is linked to mindfulness or full awareness of God (taqwa), 
but sincerity is also linked to both faith and certainty. For example, in his commentary on the words, 
And they were only commanded to worship God, devoting religion purely to Him [98:5] , Tustarl states: 
All knowledge is concerned with acts, until the person attains sincerity (ikhlas). Then when 
he reaches sincerity, he will attain profound peace (tuma’nlna). For the one whose knowledge 
[has become] certainty (yaqln) and whose works are [done in] sincerity will find that God 
removes from him three things: anxiety (jazaf, ignorance (jahl) and action ( c amal), and will 
grant him patience (sabr) in exchange for anxiety, knowledge in exchange for ignorance, and 
the abandonment of choice in exchange for action — but this will only be the case for those 
who are fully aware of God (muttaqun). 

Or again in the following passage, where sincerity is shown to be a manifestation, fruit or branch 
of certainty: 

Certainty (yaqln) is the heart of faith, patience (sabr) is the backbone of faith, and sincerity 
(ikhlas) is the perfection of faith, for through sincerity the servant reaches true affirmation 

252 Tafslr , 65:2. See also 4:81. 

253 Tafslr, 67:2. 

254 Tafslr, 2:197 

255 Tafslr, 48:26. 

256 Tustarl does not define these qualities or virtues as being either a ‘state’ ( hal ) or ‘station ( maqam ), perhaps because 
the difference between these two as technical terms had not yet been generally or formally established in Sufism. On 
the emergence of a systemisation of states and stations in Islamic mysticism see Nasrollah Pourjavady, ‘ Nahj al-khass 
(athari az Abu Mansur-i Isfahan!)’ Tahqlqat-i Islaml, Year 3 (1988-9), no. 2, pp. 94-149, and especially pp. i04ff. Two 
early mystics who are accredited with developing a scheme of stages in the spiritual path are Shaqiq Balkh! (d. 195/810), 
whose short treatise, the Adab al-Hbadat, concerned the waystations ( manazil ) of the path, see P. Nwyia, Exegese coranique, 
pp. 213-6; and Abu Sa c Id al-Kharraz (d. 286/899 or earlier) who spoke of progress through different stations ( maqamat ), 
for which see Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 10, p. 248. 

257 See p. 321. 

258 Tafslr, 7:29. 

259 Tafslr, 19:61. 


lvi 


Introduction to the Translation 


( tasdiq ). Furthermore, through true affirmation he attains realisation ( tahqiq ), and through 
realisation he reaches God ( al-Haqq ). Sincerity is the fruit of certainty, for certainty is witness- 
ing ( mushahada ) in the innermost secret ( sirr )... 260 
In his commentary on the words, Then they pray to God, becoming sincere [in their] faith in Him 
[10:22], Tustarl states: 

Sincerity ( ikhlds ) is witnessing ( mushahada ). The light of the heart is in two things: in its root, 
it is faith ( iman ) and in its branch (farf, it is sincerity. Sincerity is a matter of great importance 
( khatar ) and the one who possesses it is wary lest his sincerity should not prevail till death. . . 
He presents a number of different definitions of sincerity, or the way that sincerity may be 
attained, some of which appear straightforward, as when he says, ‘whoever subdues his lower self 
through propriety serves God, Mighty and Majestic is He, with true sincerity (ikhlds )! 261 Other 
definitions may be less simple than they appear, as when he interprets the words, Say ‘ Indeed I have 
been commanded to worship God devoting [my] religion purely to Him [39:11] thus: 

Sincerity ( ikhlds ) is responding ( ijdba ), and whoever has no response has no sincerity. 
Presumably the response is to God’s command that worship should be devoted solely to him. Tustarl 
then explains what this implies: 

The astute ( akyds ) reflected upon sincerity and did not find anything except the following: that 
everything the servant does, whether done in secret or openly, is for God alone, Mighty and 
Majestic is He, and is mingled neither with desire nor with the self. 

Similarly, commenting on the words And they were only commanded to worship God, devoting 
religion purely to Him [98:5], he states: 

Sincerity has three facets: worshipping purely for God ( ikhlds al-ibada li’Llah), acting purely 
for Him ( ikhlds al-amal lahu), and [keeping one’s] heart purely for Him ( ikhlds al-qalb lahu ). 

4. Remembrance of God ( dhikr ) 

As can be seen, these virtues involve the seeker being wholly centred upon, aware of, and devoted 
to God, all of which are in fact aspects of the remembrance of God (dhikr). Tustarl not only shows 
the remembrance of God to be an essential key to the mystical path, he also describes it as the very 
‘sustenance of the spiritual self and the intellect, just as it is the sustenance of the angels.’ 262 When 
discussing the nature of the ‘provision’ from God mentioned in 34:39, he states: 

Provision (rizq) is of two kinds: the provision that is remembrance for the spiritual self (nafs 
al-ruh), the intellect ( c aql) and the heart (qalb), which is like the sustenance of the angels — 
their very life (]aysh) is in remembrance, and were this to be withheld from them they would 
perish. The other kind of provision is that which is eaten, drunk and so on for the benefit of 
one’s physical nature. 

Elsewhere, commenting on [those who] remember God frequently [26:227], he explains: 

God, Exalted is He, created the innermost secret (sirr) and made its life consist in His remem- 
brance. He created the outward self (zdhir) and made its life consist in praising (hamd) and 
thanking (shukr) Him. He appointed for both of them duties (huquq), which are works of 
obedience (td c a). 

This emphasis on the importance of remembrance of God may well have its roots in the instruction 
given to the young Sahl by his uncle Muhammad b. Sawwar that he should recite to himself eleven 
times a day, ‘God is with me, God is watching over me, God is my Witness’. We find this teaching 


260 In a short section on faith at the end of his commentary on Sura 3. 

261 Tafsir, 7:176. 

262 Tafsir, 78:11. 


lvii 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


echoed more than once in the Tafslr, as when, in the context of the words and the men who remember 
God often and the women who remember God often [33:35], he states: 

The one who observes true remembrance is he who is aware that God witnesses him. He per- 
ceives Him with his heart as being close to him, and therefore feels shame before Him. Then 
he gives Him priority over himself and over everything else in every situation. 

Another instance is when Tustari is asked to explain remembrance, and answers: 

It is the realisation ( tahqiq ) of the knowledge that God, Exalted is He, witnesses you, and it is 
that you see Him close to you with your heart. Thus, you feel shame before Him and give Him 
priority over yourself in all your affairs. 263 

In these two cases, remembrance has an ethical dimension, or function, and this is also indicated 
when, in the context of this same verse, Tustari is asked to explain the meaning of the Prophet’s 
words, ‘The world is accursed and what it contains is accursed, save the remembrance of God ( dhikr 
Allah), Exalted is He’, and replies: 

His saying ‘the remembrance of God’ here means the abstinence from what is not lawful, that 
is, when something unlawful comes his way he remembers God, Exalted is He, and he knows 
that God is watching him, so he avoids that unlawful thing. 264 
However, remembrance also clearly has a contemplative dimension, as is shown when Tustari 
explains the inner meaning of the command, Glorify the name of your Lord Most High [87:1]: 

It [means] to proclaim His transcendence above having rivals (addad) and equals ( andad ). 
This is its outward meaning. In its inner meaning it is to witness Him through remembrance 
(dhikr) during the ritual prayer, without witnessing anything else. 265 
Of course, this is not intended to imply that remembrance should be limited to the occasion of ritual 
prayer. Tustari advises that the remembrance of God should be with His servants at every moment, 
a point which he is at pains to emphasise when he gives his disciples the following admonishment: 
In truth I say to you without any falsehood, in certainty without a doubt, that any person who 
spends a breath in other than God’s remembrance does so while being heedless of God, Mighty 
and Majestic is He. 266 

The same principle is here expressed in another way; 

There is not a servant who desired God with a genuine resolve, without everything vanishing 
from his [consciousness] besides Him. 267 

In the following passage Tustari indicates the profundity of remembrance, employing different 
forms of the verbal root dh-k-r: 

The life of the spirit ( haydt al-ruh) is in the remembrance [of God] (dhikr), the life of remem- 
brance is in the one who remembers (dhakir), and the life of the one who remembers is in the 
One who is remembered ( madhkur ). 268 

Finally, Tustari discusses the highest level of remembrance, which is purified of all other than 
God. Here he is taking up the word ‘remember’ as a keynote from a verse speaking of Abraham’s 
remembrance of the Abode [38:46]: 


263 Tafslr, 7:205. 

264 ibid. Again, this is reminiscent of the admonition given to Tustari by his uncle. See above, p. xv. 

265 One is reminded of the definition of spiritual virtue ( ihsan ) in the famous hadith of Gabriel, which is explained as ‘To 
worship God as if you see Him, for if you do not, He surely sees You.’ The hadith is listed in Abu Zakariyya Yahya al- 
Nawawi, An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, selected and translated by Ezzeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies (Lebanon, 
1980), pp. 28-31, and also in the ‘Kitab al-Imari in the Sahih collections of both Bukhari and Muslim. Qushayri discusses 
some spiritual implications of this hadith in the twenty-fourth chapter of his Risala, ‘Bab al-muraqaba (Cairo, 1966), 
pp. 405-7; trans. Knysh, pp. 202-3. 

266 Tafsir, 7:205. 

267 Tafsir, 73:9. 

268 Tafsir, 58:22. 


lviii 


Introduction to the Translation 


He [God] purified Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac from the remembrance of this world through a 
remembrance of Him, purely for [His sake] ( khalisatan ), not for the attainment of recompense. 
Neither did they witness themselves in it [their remembrance] ; rather, they remembered Him 
through Him and for Him. Furthermore, the one who remembers God through God is not 
like the one who remembers God through the remembrance of God. 

The state which Tustari is here describing, in which the mystic, represented by Abraham and his sons, 
is totally freed of himself to the point that it can be said that he remembers God through God, was 
defined by other mystics as the state of annihilation from self ( fancb ) and subsistence in God (baqd’), 
and is now generally understood in Sufism as attainment of the ultimate state on the spiritual path . 269 

vii. Conclusion 

It is hoped that the foregoing discussion will have given the reader some idea of the depth and scope 
of doctrines presented in Tustari’s Tafsir. As can be seen, they range from theological discussions 
of the divine attributes, through cosmological reflections on the Prophet’s time alone with God in 
pre-eternity and the derivation of the two worlds from the well-spring of the Muhammadan Light, 
to eschatalogical portrayals of what is in store for those who are blessed and those who are doomed 
in the Hereafter; and from glimpses of the highest experiences of realised mystics, through descrip- 
tions of spiritual virtues, to practical guidelines for the way of life of intitiates, and instructions 
for their conduct on the path. Although the profoundest moments of illumination and intimacy 
with God are for the most part allusively expressed in the Tafsir, we find that Tustari articulates 
and expounds in a clear and precise manner his understanding of spiritual psychology and the 
workings of the inner world of the human being, with its two ‘sides’, the one tending toward the 
earth and the realm of darkness, namely man’s lower self ( nafs ) along with his basic human nature 
( tab ' ), and the other tending toward heaven and the realm of light, namely man’s spirit ( ruh ), heart 
(qalb) and intellect ( c aql ). Likewise he shows how these two sides can and should be brought into 
coalition through the remembrance of God. 

During this period, knowledge of the states ( ahwdl ) and stations ( maqamat ) of the spiritual 
path had not generally been subjected to any formal systematisation in Sufism , 270 yet Tustari presents 
numerous discussions of topics such as repentance ( tawba ), spiritual poverty or neediness for God 
( faqr ), patience ( sabr ), contentment ( rida ), complete trust in God ( tawakkul ), mindfulness of God 
( taqwd ) and sincerity ( ikhlds ), and in one or two instances incorporates some of these into a scheme 
of progress through spiritual stages . 271 Many of his sayings on these topics, which he regarded as 
necessary virtues or attributes for spiritual wayfarers, were to be cited in the manuals and treatises 
of later Sufi authors. 

In the Tafsir, Tustari’s teachings are inevitably dispersed through his interpretations of different 
Quranic verses. However, when these fragments and gems of wisdom are brought together and col- 
lated, we find, as Bowering has noted, a ‘mystical synthesis of ideas that is marked by its coherence 
and specific terminology’, and we can get a clear impression of Tustari’s ‘mystical world view ’. 272 A 
thread that runs consistently through his teachings is the theme of light, which represents for him 
divine guidance at all its levels: the Qur’an is light; the Prophet, in his primordial existence was light, 
and continues to be light, radiating the light of faith and guidance to believers and to the world, 
and it is a light from the light of the essence of God that brings the mystic to the highest level of 
certainty and the ‘attainment’ of God. 


269 In his Tafsir, Tustari does not use these two terms fana' and baqd* as they are frequently applied by Sufis to the concom- 
mitent states of annihilation from self’ and subsisting in God’. However, he does use the term baqa 3 as a permanent 
subsisting with God in Paradise, as for example in his commentary on 43:69 and 70. See above, p. xxxvi, and n. 143. Abu 
Sa c id al-Kharraz is accredited with being the first mystic to have discussed f ana 3 and baqd 3 as mystical states. 

270 See above, n. 256. 

271 e.g. Tafsir, 4:81. 

272 Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 265. 


lix 


Tafslr al-Tustari 


Tustarl’s mystical world view, or perhaps we might call it his ‘spiritual universe’, is firmly framed 
within his theological, cosmological and eschatological beliefs, and this is, as he sees it, precisely 
the challenge which faces all human beings, and which he encourages aspiring mystics to take up. 
God is the Transcendent, the Unknowable, yet as he says, ‘Truly behind the names and attributes 
are attributes which no comprehension can penetrate, for God is a blazing fire and is inaccessible. 
Yet we have no option but to plunge in [and try to reach Him] ,’ 273 Our destiny is pre-determined 
for us by God, and it is actually and only through our knowledge that He is in control of all things, 
our acceptance of what He has destined for us with contentment ( rida ), and our complete trust 
( tawakkul ) and tranquil acquiescence ( sukun ) in Him, that we can be freed from the veil of our own 
management of things ( tadblr ). 274 In the Tafslr , Tustari reminds us that at the Covenant of Alast all 
human beings bore witness to God’s lordship, and that all human beings will definitely be answer- 
able in the Hereafter for the extent to which they have kept that Covenant (i.e. the profession of 
God’s oneness). The intense awareness of those two moments of encounter with God, one which 
took place in pre-eternity and the other that is to come, place the mystic in the immediacy of the 
present moment in which He stands before his Lord. 


Annabel Keeler 
November 2010 


273 Tafslr , 7:180. See the discussion of this saying in T. Mayer, ‘Theology and Sufism’, in T. Winter, Cambridge Companion 
to Classical Islamic Theology, p. 263. 

274 Tafslr, 32:5; also 7:33 and 16:97. 


lx 


The Commentary 



Introduction to the Commentary 


In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. 

May God bless our master Muhammad, his Family and Companions, and grant them peace. 

In an authorised oral transmission in the house of Yusuf, I was informed by the Shaykh and 
preacher Abu Nasr Ahmad b. c Abd al-Jabbar b. Muhammad b. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Abl al-Nasr 
al-Baladl, that his grandfather the Imam Abu Bakr Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Baladl, had informed 
him: the jurist Abu Nasr Ahmad b. c AlI b. Ibrahim al-Ta'ifi al-Saffar related to us that Abu al-Qasim 
c AlI b. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. al-Hasan al-Waddahl was told by Abu al- c Abbas c Abd al-Rahman b. 
al-Hasan b. "Umar al-Balkhl on the Sassanian Road in Balkh, that Abu Yusuf Ahmad b. Muhammad 
b. Qays al-SijzI Yelated that Abu Bakr Muhammad b. al-Ash c ath b. Tamlm b. Muhajir al-Zaman 
al-Sijzi 11 said: ‘I heard Muhammad Sahl b. c Abd Allah al-Tustarl, may God the Exalted have mercy 
on him, in the year two hundred and seventy five, say: 

It was narrated to us by Muhammad b. Sawwar on the authority of Abu c Asim al-Nabll, on the 
authority of Bishr, on the authority of Tkrima, [that] Ibn c Abbas, may God be pleased with them 
both, said, ‘I asked the Messenger of God M how to attain salvation in the Hereafter, to which 
he replied: “You should keep to the Book of God, for in it there is information about those 
who came before you and news of those who will come after you. It is the arbiter between you 
in matters of your religion, by which God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has made you worship 
Him. Through it [the Qur'an] you [may] attain gnosis ( malrifa ); and whoever seeks guidance 
another way, God will lead astray. It is the command of God, the Wise, it is the straight path, 
and it is the beneficial cure. No sooner did the jinn hear it than they exclaimed: ... We have 
indeed heard a marvellous Qur'an. It guides to rectitude. <$> Therefore we believe in it and we 
will never associate anyone with our Lord. [72:1, 2]’” 1 2 
[He, Sahl, continued]: 

It is that which is beautifully ordered in its outward form and profound in its inner meaning. 
It is, moreover, that before which all understanding is powerless, according to the words of 
God, Exalted is He: 

And when We sent a company of jinn your way to listen to the Qur'an and when they were in 
its presence, they said, ‘Listen carefully!’ When [the reading] was finished, they returned to their 
people to warn [them], They said, ‘O our people! Indeed we have heard a book revealed after 
Moses, confirming what came before it: it guides to the truth and to a straight path.’ [46:29-30] 
Then a man asked him [Sahl] about Gods knowledge of His servants, whether it was something 
that became apparent to Him after He created them, or before their creation. He replied: 

...It is a Glorious Qur'an [85:21], that is, it is a book [that was] fixed in a Preserved Tablet [85:22] 
before they were created; 3 God’s knowledge of His servants and what they would do was complete 
before He created them. [This does not imply] His forcing them into disobedience, coercing 

1 Added on the basis of Z515, f. lb and F3488, f. 181b. 

2 Abu Isa Muhammad al-Tirmidhl, al-Jami c al-sahih wa huwa Sunan al-Tirmidhl (Cairo, 1937-65), ‘Ma ja'a fi fadl al- 
Qur'ari ; Ahmad b. al-Husayn al-Bayhaql, al-Jami c li-shu Q ab al-iman (Beirut, 1996), vol. 2, p. 836. 

3 Here, Tustari appears to be identifying the Qur'an with Gods pre-eternal knowledge. 


1 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


them into obedience, or leaving them out of His divine plan. Rather, it draws attention to that 
which those who deny His decree are promised, for He says: . . . whoever will, let him believe, 
and whoever will, let him disbelieve. . . [18:29], in the way of a threat, since they [actually] have 
no power ( hawl ) or strength ( quwwa ) except in accordance with that which is contained in 
His pre-eternal knowledge concerning them, which will come to be, from Him, [but] through 
them and for them. 4 God, Exalted is He, says: . . .And if God wills misfortune for a people there is 
none that can repel it [13:11] . The good from God is a command for which He provides support 
( wilaya ), 5 and the evil from God is a prohibition against which He provides protection (Hsma ). 6 
Sahl, may God be pleased with him, said: 

Every verse of the Qur'an has four senses: an outward ( zdhir ) and an inward sense ( bdtin ), a 
limit ( hadd ) and a point of transcendency ( matld ). The outward sense is the recitation and 
the inward sense is the understanding (fahm ) of the verse; the limit defines what is lawful and 
unlawful, and the point of transcendency is the heart’s place of elevation ( ishraf) [from which 
it beholds] the intended meaning, as an understanding from God, Mighty and Majestic is 
He (fiqhan min Allah c azza wajalla). The outward knowledge [of the Qur'an] is a knowledge 
[accessible to the] generality ( c dmm ); whereas the understanding of its inner meanings and 
its intended meaning is [for] a select few ( khass ) . . .Thus God has said: . . . What is wrong with 
this people that they fail to understand any words? [4:78] That is, they do not understand what 
they are being told. 

Sahl [further] said: 

The servant cannot do without his Master, nor can he do without His Book, nor without His 
Prophet fs, for his heart is a mine of God’s oneness, and his breast {sadr) is a light from [His] 
‘substance’ (jawhar ). It [the breast] derives its strength from the mine of his heart, [transmit- 
ting it] to his frame. 7 He who has nothing by way of guidance that he has heard 8 or [has it] but 
ignores it, will likewise not have Paradise as his [final] abode, and if God is not with him as his 
succour, then who is? If the Qur'an is not his guide, and the Prophet is not his intercessor, then 
who is there to intercede for him? And if he is not in Paradise, then he must be in the Hellfire. 
His [Sahl’s] saying 9 that [the Prophet’s] ‘breast is a light’ means that it is a repository of light ‘from 
His [God’s] substance’, which is the original locus of light within the breast, whence light spreads 
throughout the rest of the breast. The attribution of ‘substance’ ( jawhar ) to God does not imply [a 
reference to] His essence ( dhat ), but rather it is an indication of possession ( mulk ). ‘It derives its 


4 For Tustari’s teachings on divine preordination and decree, see Introduction to the Translation, pp. xxxiiiff. Henceforth 
abbreviated to ‘IT’ 

5 That is, patronage, guardianship or even friendship, all of which are meanings of the word wilaya, derived from the 
verbal root w-l-y, meaning to be near, from which is also derived the word wall, which will be discussed below For 
a discussion of the different significations of the word wilaya and its variant walaya , see M. Izzi Dien and P. Walker, 
‘Wilaya’, El 2 , vol. xi, p. 208-9; Hermann Landolt, ‘Walayah’, The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York, 1987), vol. 14, pp. 
9656-62; Chodkiewicz, Seal of Saints, chs. 1 and 2; Bernd Radtke and John O’Kane, The Concept of Sainthood in Early 
Islamic Mysticism (Richmond, 1996); and Bernd Radtke, ‘The Concept of Wilaya in Early Sufism’ in Leonard Lewisohn 
(ed.), The Heritage of Sufism (Oxford, 1999), vol. 1, pp. 483-96. 

6 As can be seen here, Tustari teaches that both good and evil come from God. As Bowering has explained, ‘God lays down 
what is good through His command ( amr ), and He sets down what is evil through His interdiction {nahy)l Furthermore, 
‘God’s command is accompanied by an act of divine help ( ma c una ), [or, as above, wilaya] whereas His interdiction is 
accompanied by an act of divine protection (Tsma).’ See Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 176-80. See also IT, pp. xxxiiiff. 

7 Lit. to his ‘temple’ ( haykal ). The question arises as to whether Tustari intends here the heart of Muhammad, or the 
human heart in a general sense. Bowering has taken it to mean the heart of Muhammad, probably because of other 
similar passages. See his discussion of the heart of Muhammad in Mystical Vision, pp. 162-3. However, Gaafar, in ‘The 
Sufi Doctrine’, p. 110, n. 7, has taken it to mean the heart of the human being in general. We have followed Bowering’s 
interpretation, according to which Tustari is here referring to the Prophet’s heart. 

8 MS F638, f. lb has sami c a hihi instead of yatba c u bihi which is in Z515, f. 2b, F3488, f. 182b and the published edition. 
The commentary which follows in the next paragraph would seem to favour the F638 version, which is what we have 
translated. 

9 These words are a comment on the words of Tustari, probably given by Abu Bakr al-SijzI. 


2 


Introduction to the Commentary 


strength’ means, the strength of light from his mine, ‘it’ being the breast and a truthful advocate 
( mahil musaddaq ). 10 ‘To his frame’ means [to] his limbs. What he meant by this is the light of acts 
of obedience [manifested] through the limbs. ‘He who has nothing’ means he [who does not have] 
any guidance, ‘that he has heard’, that is, understood. 

[Sahl continued]: * 11 

The Prophet M said, ‘The Qur'an is an excellent intercessor whose intercession is accepted ( shaft c 
mushaffd) and a truthful advocate ( mahil musaddaq). Whomsoever the Qur'an intercedes for 
will be saved, and whoever acts evilly by it ( man mahala bihi) will be doomed. 12 
Sahl said: 

God, Exalted is He, sent down the Qur an to His Prophet and made his heart a mine of His 
oneness and of the Qur'an, for He said: It was brought down by the Trustworthy Spirit upon your 
heart. .. [26:193] . He further charged him with its promulgation and explanation, so that through 
him the believers would be apprised of what had been sent down to them. Whoever believes 
in it, knows its explanation and acts upon its injunctions, will have perfected his faith in God, 
Exalted is He. But whoever believes in it and reads it, but does not act upon his knowledge of 
what it contains, will not receive his reward in full. 

People who recite the Qur'an are of three ranks. There are those who have been granted under- 
standing by virtue of their maintaining the practice of what is commanded and the avoidance 
of what is forbidden, both inwardly and outwardly, and by their affirmation of it [the Qur'an] 
with the light of the insight of certainty ( nur basirat al-yaqin), which is [in effect] the heart’s 
reliance on God, Exalted is He, in every state and in any situation. They attach no importance 
to melodies [in the recitation] or the delight that may be aroused by the charm of contrived 
vocal embellishments. Their only concern is with trying to understand, and asking God for an 
increase in such understanding with regard to His commands and prohibitions, and what is 
intended by the ordinances concerning that which He has made obligatory, and [that which is 
prescribed by] the Sunna of His Prophet M- Hence, these people act upon the knowledge they 
have of it, ever seeking God’s aid, and are steadfast in carrying it out, 13 as He commanded them 
when He said: ...Pray for help from God and be patient... [7:128], that is, ‘Seek God’s aid in fulfill- 
ing His command, in the obligatory way that is the way of God; and be steadfast in carrying it 
out both inwardly and outwardly, so that He may impart to you understanding, discernment 
and that which He wants from you, as a grace from Him.’ [So, those whom 1 have described] 
do not pay attention to beautiful voices, ft is to them that God has granted the understanding 
of the Qur'an. They are the elect of God and His friends ( awliydf}* They have nothing to do 
with this world and the world has no claim on them, nor do they have any desire for what is in 
Paradise. He took the world away from them, but they did not mind, and when He gave it to 


10 It is interesting to note that in the following paragraph Tustari uses this same epithet for the Qur’an, and later it will be 
seen that in one instance, he interprets the Preserved Tablet ( lawh mahfuz ) as the breast in which the Qur’an is preserved. 
See Tustarl’s commentary on 85:22. 

11 It is not quite clear here whether the speaker is Tustari or Abu Bakr al-Sijzi. 

12 That is, whoever finds respite in the Qur’an, that is, a false sense of reassurance and ease, and therefore continues in 
error and disbelief will ultimately be doomed to perish in the Fire. We shall see later a similar doctrine in relation to 
the term istidraj. 

13 That is, translating adayihi (for ada'ihi ) according to MSS: Z515, f. 3b and F3488, f. 183a. F638, f. 3a has adabihi the first 
time and iddayihi (for idda'ihi ) the second. The confusion arises with some copyists who rendered hamza as ‘ya. Another 
example will be seen below. 

14 Awliya ’ is the plural of the word wait, which, like the word wilaya discussed above in n. 5, derives from the Arabic verbal 
root w-l-y. The wall can be a person in authority, a guardian, protector, or friend (especially of God). Concerning its 
latter meaning, Pierre Lory has stated (‘Wall,’ El 2 , vol. xi, p. 109): ‘in some way the wall also acquires his Friends, i.e. 
Gods, good qualities and therefore he possesses particular authority, . . . capacities and abilities’ In its meaning of ‘friend 
of God’, the word wall is often translated as saint, which is understandable given that there is no idiomatic equivalent 
for the word wall in English, but ‘saint’ does not really convey the Arabic sense, and can also be misleading since there 
is no canonisation in Islam. 


3 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


them they refused it, just as their Prophet had refused it when it was presented to him. 15 They 
cast themselves before God in contentment and reliance on Him. They said: ‘We cannot do 
without You. You are You, and we have no desire for other than You. They are the ones who 
have isolated themselves for God ( mutafarridun ) mentioned by the Prophet M when he said 
‘Walk the way of those who are solely dependent ( mutafarridun ) on the mercy of God, Exalted 
is He.’ They inquired: ‘Who are the mutafarridun, O Messenger of God?’ He replied: ‘They are 
those who have become ecstatic ( ahtaru ) in the remembrance of God, Exalted is He. 16 They 
will come on the Day of Resurrection light [of load] for [their] remembrance will have lifted 
from them their burdens [of sin] ,’ 17 

Sahl then said [concerning this hadith ]: 

They are the shaykhs [or spiritual masters] who are ecstatic in the remembrance of God ( dhikr ), 
for which they are [constantly] assembled, as the Prophet ® said: ‘God, Exalted is He, says, 
“I keep company with the one who remembers Me. Whenever my servant seeks Me out, he 
will find Me.’” 18 And He, Exalted is He, has said: . . . Whithersoever you turn, there is the Face 
of God... [2:115] 

A section on those who seek the understanding of the Qur’an 

God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has said: 

‘Truly it is a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds, •$> brought down by the Trustworthy Spirit, 
•$> Upon your heart, that you may be [one] of the warners.’ [26:192-4] 

Sahl said: 

According to the measure of light which has been allotted to a person by God, Exalted is He, 
he will find guidance for his heart and insight ( basira ). Lights from His light will be manifested 
in his characteristics. God, Exalted is He, has said: . . .For any to whom God has not granted 
light, there is no light. [24:40] Thus the QuTan is God’s rope (habl) [linking] Him with His 
servants. Whoever holds fast to it is saved, for God has made the Qur an a light, and has said: 

. . . but We have made it a light by which we guide whomsoever We wish of Our servants. . . [42:52]. 19 
The meaning of ... We have made... here is: ‘We have expounded within it that which is clear 
( muhkam ) and ambiguous ( mutashabih ), 20 that which is lawful ( haldl ) and unlawful (haram), 

15 This is a reference to one account of the Prophets Night Journey and Ascension (. Isra ' wa Mi c raj), when, according to 
certain traditions, the whole world was presented to him in all its splendour and adornment, but he said that he had no 
need for it. See, for example, Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayrl, Kitab al-MFraj (Cairo, 1964), pp. 44ff., who relates one such 
tradition on the authority of Dahhak. A lengthy traditional account of the Mi c raj may be found in c Abd Allah b. Mas c ud 
Ibn Ishaq, Kitab al-Mubtada ' wal-matfath wal-maghazi , known as Sirat Ibn Ishaq (Rabat, 1976); English trans., Alfred 
Guillaume as The Life of Muhammad (London, 1955), pp. 181-7. O n the Mfraj, see also Abu c Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami, 
Bayan lataHf al-mfraj, English trans. with Arabic text by Frederick S. Colby as Subtleties of the Ascension (Louisville, KY, 
2006). 

16 Or it might be translated as crazed, for they appear incoherent and even insane, due to the ecstasy they experience in 
their remembrance of God. MS Z515, f. 3b and F3488, f. 183b both have ihtazzu and the corresponding muhtazzlna in 
the following sentence, meaning they quiver, tremble or are moved (by the remembrance). MS F638, f. 3a has ihtadu 
meaning they are guided and muhtazzuna in the following sentence. 

17 Muhammad b. c AlI (al-Haklm) al-Tirmidhl, Nawadir al-usulft ma c rifat ahadlth al-rasul (Beirut, 1993), vol. 3, p. 64. 

18 Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman , vol. 1, p. 451. 

19 Tustari has understood ‘it’ in this sentence to stand for the Qur'an, though commentators point out that it could also 
be referring to the Spirit mentioned earlier in the verse: and thus have We revealed to you a Spirit from Our command. 
You did not know what the Book was, nor faith. . . 

20 The muhkam and mutashabih verses in the Qur'an are mentioned in 3:7, which reads as follows: ‘It is He who revealed 
to you the Book, wherein are verses [ that are] clear (muhkam) forming the Mother of the Book (umm al-kitab), and 
others ambiguous (mutashabihat). As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they follow the ambiguous part desiring sedi- 
tion, and desiring its interpretation..! The end of 3:7 reads: wa mayaTamu ta'wilahu ill aLlahu waT -rasikhuna fi T-ilmi 
yaquluna amanna bihi kullun min Hndi rabbina wa ma yudhakkaru ilia ulu 1 -albab. There was a difference of opinion 
as to whether, grammatically, there should be a break between the word Llahu and wa (underlined text). According to 
one opinion, held, for example, by Abu Ja c far al-Tabari (d. 310/923) and Jalal al-DIn al-Suyutl (d. 911/1505), it should 


4 


Introduction to the Commentary 


and that which is commanded (amr) and forbidden ( nahy)\ as God has said. Mighty and 
Majestic is He: We have made it an Arabic Qur'an [43:3] — that is, ‘We have expounded it in a 
clear Arabic tongue in the letters of the alphabet which God has clearly set forth for you, and 
by which you may attain knowledge of [its] inner and outer [meanings]’. 

God, Exalted is He, has said: and [those who] follow the light which has been revealed with him 
[7:1 57], referring to the Qur'an, of which the heart of the Prophet is the mine. 

He [Sahl] was asked the meaning of his saying that the Qur'an is the ‘rope’ ( habl ) between God and 

His servants. He replied: 

This means that they have no way to Him save through the Qur'an, and through understand- 
ing [all] that has been addressed to them in it concerning what is required of them, as well as 
putting that knowledge into practice for God’s sake with complete sincerity ( mukhlisuna fthi ), 
and following the exemplary way (sunna) of Muhammad ft, who was sent to them. Thus He 
has said: Whoever obeys the Messenger, verily obeys God [4:80] — that is, whoever obeys the 
Messenger ft in [keeping] his Sunna, has indeed obeyed God in those things that He made 
obligatory for him. 

Ibn 'Abbas has said, ‘The Qur'an was sent down all at once to the heaven of this world, and 
then God, Exalted is He, sent it down to the Prophet ft in instalments of five verses at a time, 
or more or less than this’. 21 He has said, Glorified and Exalted is He: Nay, I swear by the setting- 
places of the stars! — And that is indeed a tremendous oath, if you but knew — This is 
indeed a noble Qur'an [56:75-7]. 

And Ibn 'Abbas A said, ‘The Qur'an did not come down in one month or two, nor in a year or 
two; the time between the first revelation and the last was twenty years, or as [many] as God 
willed.’ This is because Israfll is stationed in the Throne with a lowered gaze, 22 and around him 
are the noble recording angels, and an emerald tablet. When God wills something, it is to be 
found on this Tablet, then that one [Israfll] will knock his forehead on the Tablet so that he 
sees its contents, upon which he sends out the messengers [angels]. This is what is meant by 
His words: [Sealed] in a Preserved Tablet [85:22]. The Qur'an was sent down all at once to the 
noble recording angels, then they in turn sent it down to Gabriel in instalments over the 
course of twenty years, and likewise did Gabriel bring it in instalments to the Prophet f|. The 
idolaters said, ‘If only the Qur'an was sent down to him all at once’, to which God, Exalted is 
He, responded: Thus [is it revealed], that We may strengthen your inner heart with it [25:32] — 
that is, so that it may be an answer to that about which they question you. For if We had sent 
it down all at once you would not have [to hand] the answers to their questions. 


read: and none knows its interpretation save only God. And those who are rooted in knowledge say, ‘We believe in it; all is 
from ourLord\ while according to the other, that held, for example, by Mahmud b. c Umar al-Zamakhsharl (d. 538/1144) 
and Abu Ja c far Muhammad al-TusI (d. ca 460/1067), it should read: and none knows its interpretation save only God 
and those who are rooted in knowledge, who say..! Tustari appears to hold the former view as will be seen below. On the 
muhkam and mutashabih verses in Quranic hermeneutics see Jane D. McAuliffe, ‘Quranic Hermeneutics: The Views 
of Tabari and Ibn Kathlr’, in Andrew Rippin, Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an (Oxford and 
New York, 1988), pp. 46-62; Leah Kinberg, ‘Muhkamat and Mutashabihat (Q. verse 3/7): Implication of a Qurianic Pair 
of Terms in Medieval Exegesis’, Arabica 35 (1988), pp. 143-72; Michel Lagarde, ‘De l’ambiguite dans le Coran, Quaderni 
di Studi Arabi 3 (1985), pp. 45-62; Sahiron Syamsuddin, ‘Muhkam and Mutashabih: An Analytical Study of al-Tabaris 
and al-Zamakhshari’s Interpretations of Q. 3:7’, Journal of Quranic Studies 1/1 (1999), pp. 63-79; and Stefan Wild, ‘The 
Self-Referentiality of the Qur’an: Sura 3:7 as an Exegetical Challenge’, in Jane D. McAuliffe et al., eds., With Reverence 
for the Word (Oxford and New York, 2003), pp. 422-36. 

21 Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 2, p. 331. 

22 According to the Islamic tradition, Israfll is one of the archangels, whose duty it is to read out the divine decrees from the 
Preserved Tablet ( lawh mahfuz) and transmit them to the other angels, and to blow the Trumpet signalling the coming 
of the Day of Judgement. Israfll is said to be of an immense size, such that while his feet are beneath the seventh earth, 
his head reaches up to the pillars of God’s Throne. He has four wings: one in the east, one in the west, one to cover his 
body, and one as a protection from the divine majesty. See A. J. Wensinck, ‘Israfil,’ El 2 , vol. iv, p. 211. 


5 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Sahl said: 

God sent down the Qur'an in five instalments of five verses at a time: five clear verses, five 
ambiguous verses, five concerning that which is permissible, five concerning that which is 
prohibited, and five parabolic verses. The believer who has gnosis (mdrifa) of God, Exalted is 
He, adheres to what is clear in it, 23 believes what is ambiguous, 24 holds as permissible that which 
it has made permissible, holds as prohibited that which it has prohibited, and comprehends 
its similitudes ( amthal ), as He has said: but only those understand them [ the similitudes] who 
know [29:43] — that is, those who have knowledge ( Him ) of God, Exalted is He, and especially 
those who have gnosis ( mdrifa ) of Him. 25 

Sahl said: 

In the Qur'an there are no two verses that are so harsh against those who dispute the Qur'an 
as the following: [in the first,] God, Exalted is He, says: None dispute the signs of God except 
those who disbelieve [40:4], by which is meant the one who disputes God’s verses, arguing in 
accordance with the whim[s] of his lower self (hawd nafsihi), and following his own mental 
disposition (jibillat c aqlihi). God, Exalted is He, has [likewise] said, nor [should there be for 
them] disputing in the Hajj [2:197], meaning, there shall be no quarrelling during Hajj. The 
second [of the two verses] is His saying: But those who disagree about the Book are in a schism, 
far removed [from the truth] [2:176]. 

The Prophet M said: ‘O fellow companions, do not dispute [with others] about what is in the 
Qur'an. For while a believer who is guided may dispute with recourse to the Qur'an and hit 
the mark, if a lying hypocrite disputes with recourse to the Qur'an he will present his proofs 
based on analogy and selfish whims and will be far from correct.’ 26 The Prophet M said: ‘The 
worst of God’s servants pursue the worst matters to test God’s servants by provoking them.’ 27 
And God will be their opponent on the Day of Resurrection, as every questioner will be asked 
on the Day of Resurrection, ‘What was intended by your question?’ 

Sahl said: 

How amazing it is that someone can read the Qur'an, but then not act according to it, nor avoid 
what God forbids [in it] ! Does such a person not feel shame before God for his contentiousness 
and rebellion against Him and against that which He has commanded and prohibited, even after 
having the knowledge of it? Is there anything of greater enormity than this contention? Has he 
not heard His promise and threat? Does he not listen to what God has promised him through 
admonishing examples, so that he might have compassion on himself and repent? Has he not 
heard His words, Surely the mercy of God is near to the virtuous [7:56], that he might strive to 
do good? Has he not heard His words, ‘And My mercy has precedence over My punishment’, 28 
so that he might long for His mercy? 

Then Sahl said: 

O God! You honoured them with this beautiful gift [the Qur'an] and You privileged them with 
this favour. O God, pardon us and them! 


23 The clear ( muhkam ) verses are generally held to be unambiguous verses which inform believers of what is prescribed 
and proscribed by God. 

24 The mutashabih verses mentioned in Q. 3:7 are often rendered in English as ‘metaphorical’ or ‘allegorical’, though they 
include other verses, the meanings of which are not readily understandable for other reasons. 

25 Tustarl has here contrasted gnosis ( mcfrifa ) and knowledge ( c ilm ), and indicated that the former goes beyond the latter. 
There are instances, however, when the word mcfrifa may simply mean knowledge. On the use of the term mcfrifa, see 
R. Arnaldez, ‘Ma c rifa, El 2 , vol. vi, pp. 568tf. 

26 In other words, however correct the believer’s argument might be, it is better not to enter into a dispute at all. 

27 Ahmad b. Shu c ayb al-NasaT, al-Sunan al-kubra (Beirut, 1991), vol. 2, p. 317. 

28 This hadith qudsi resembles a better-known hadith, ‘My mercy has precedence over My wrath ( rahmati sabaqat ghadabi)’, 
which is listed as hadith no. 1 in Abu Zakariyya Yahya al-NawawI, Forty Hadith Qudsi, selected and translated by Ez- 
zeddin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson -Davies (Lebanon, 1980). 


6 


Introduction to the Commentary 


Then he said: 

Truly God has not taken as a friend (wall ) 29 one of Muhammad’s nation ( umma ) without teach- 
ing them the Qur'an either in its outward or inner aspects. 

They responded, ‘We know about its outward aspect but what is its inner aspect?’ He replied, 
‘That is its understanding (fahm ); and it is its understanding that is intended.’ 

Abu Bakr al-Sijzi said: 

Junayd heard me relate the following story and said that Sahl spoke the truth. Once there was 
a man of a black complexion and foreign tongue with us in Baghdad. We would ask him about 
the Qur'an verse by verse and he would answer us with the best response, without having learnt 
the Qur'an by heart, and that was a clear proof of his friendship [with God] ( wilaya ). Sahl said, 
‘It was narrated on the authority of Ibn Mas'ud 4 s> that he [Ibn Mas c ud] said: “The one who knows 
the Qur'an by heart [lit. bearer of the Qur'an, hamil] should be known for his vigil at night 
while people are asleep, for his fasting during the day while people are eating, for his sorrow 
while people are rejoicing, for his weeping when people are laughing, and for his silence when 
people are talking.” Thus he who knows the Qur'an by heart should be tearful, sorrowful, wise 
and learned, not hard-hearted and deceptive, that is to say, not dishonest.’ 

Sahl said: 

Muhammad b. Sawwar informed me that when he performed the Hajj one year, he saw Ayyub 
al-Sakhtiyani, who had begun the first [part] of his recitation of the whole Qur'an in his prayer 
(salat). [At the same time] he noticed another man from Basra facing the Ka'b a who had started 
reciting Surat al-Mutaffifin [83] and kept on repeating the verse, ‘Do they not know that they 
will be resurrected?’ [83:4]. 

Sahl continued: 

Ayyub al-Sakhtiyani had reached two-thirds of the way through the Qur'an when that man 
was still repeating this same verse. At the approach of dawn Ayyub had reached the Surat al-FIl 
[105], while the other man had reached God’s words, A day when (all) mankind will rise before 
the Lord of the Worlds? [83:6] . 30 Then that same man fell unconscious, and on approaching 
him we found him dead. 

Indeed people have differed in the way they seek the understanding of the Qur'an. One group 
tries to understand the Qur'an through repetitive study, so that they can derive an understanding 
of the outward meaning of its ordinances. Among these, some attain a little [understanding] 
and some attain abundant [understanding] . The latter are knowledgeable and [either] act for 
the sake of God, Exalted is He, [in the hope of attaining] the abodes of Paradise; or act for God, 
Exalted is He, in [pure] compliance (ijdban); or they are knowledgeable but do not act [on 
that knowledge]. 31 Another group seek to understand the Qur'an for the sake of memorising 
its recitation and teaching it to others. Among them, some are sound in their actions, while 
others are insolent before their Lord. Then there is the one who has studied it a great deal, but 
whose aim is to learn its melodies and be noticed. He gains [naught but] the ruin of this world 
and is the worst off out of the three groups in the eyes of God, Exalted is He. 

Sahl said: 

I was informed by Muhammad b. Sawwar who received it from c Amru b. Mirdas on the authority 
of Abu Hurayra 4 ®, who related that the Prophet fg said: ‘Recite the Qur'an with the melodies 
of the Arabs without extraneous affectation, and do not recite it using the tunes of churches, 
or of heretics or innovators. For verily I and the pious of my nation are free from affectation. 

29 See above p. 2, n.5 and p. 3, n. 14 regarding the word wall. The word used of God in this context is istawla, which usually 
means to take possession of, make oneself the master of, to overpower or to imprison; so there is a sense here of Gods 
taking possession of His friends from among the nation of Muhammad. 

30 In other words, in all that time he had focussed his attention on three verses of the Qur’an. 

31 The printed edition has c amil lahu, i.e. they do not act upon that knowledge ‘for His sake’. However, the word lahu is 
absent from all three MSS. 


7 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


But people will come after me who will make their voices quaver in [their recitation] in the 
manner of female singers delivering their songs. Their hearts are beguiled and they beguile 
the hearts of their listeners. For sure, it is they who are the heedless.’ 32 
Sahl said: 

I truly fear that by the year 300 [a.h.] onwards, 33 the Qur an will become effaced through 
peoples preoccupation with tunes, poems and songs. 

Then he was asked, ‘How will that happen, O Abu Muhammad?’ He replied: 

It will come about because people only initiate these tunes, poems and songs in order to earn 
from it, and so Iblls takes possession of their hearts, just as he took possession of the hearts 
of the poets of the Jahiliyya, 34 depriving them of the understanding of the Qur an and of act- 
ing according to it for the sake of God. It was related by Muhammad b. Sawwar from Ibn Abi 
Dhfb from Muhammad b. c Abd al-Rahman on the authority of Thawban that he heard the 
Prophet $g say: ‘Listening to songs makes you forget the Qur'an and distracts you from the 
remembrance [of God].’ 

Abu Bakr [al-Sijzi] reported that Abu Sa Id al-Kharraz used to live in Mecca, and had the greatest 
love for listening to odes and love songs, and his servant Abu al-Udhnayn informed me that he 
saw him after his death in a dream and asked him, ‘How did God deal with you, O Abu Sa id?’, to 
which he responded: ‘He forgave me after an upbraiding — I would have preferred to have been 
sent to the Hellfire rather than be upbraided by God!’ When he [Abu al-Udhnayn] asked Abu Sa c Id 
why this was so, he replied, ‘God (al-Haqq) had me stand before Him behind the veil of fear and 
He said to me. “You assigned to Layla and Su c da [feelings] that were My preserve, and if it was not 
for your taking up a standpoint for My sake from which you sought Me, I would have sent you to 
Hell.” Then, when the veil of fear was changed to the veil of [His] good pleasure ( rida ), I said, “O 
God! I didn’t find anyone who could bear what You have burdened me with except You, so I alluded 
to You.” 35 He said, “You have spoken the truth”, and He sent me to Paradise.’ But God knows best. 

A section on His words, In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 

[1:1 ] 36 

Abu Bakr [al-Sijzi] reported that Sahl was asked about the meaning of [God’s words], In the name 
of God the Compassionate (al-Rahman), the Merciful (al-Rahlm). He replied: 

The ‘ba stands for ‘ bahal Allah’ (the magnificence of God, Mighty and Majestic is He), the ‘sin 
stands for ‘ sand ' Allah’ (the resplendence of God), and the ‘mim’ stands for ‘majd Allah’ (the 
Glory of God), Mighty and Majestic is He. 37 Allah is the Greatest Name, which contains all 
His names. Between its ‘Alif’ and ‘Lam’ there is a cryptic letter, something of an unseen from 
an unseen to an unseen, a secret from a secret to a secret, a reality from a reality to a reality, 
of which no one can attain an understanding except those who are pure of all blemishes, and 


32 TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 2, p. 255; Bayhaqi, Shu : ab al-iman, vol. 2, p. 540. 

33 912 C.E. 

34 i.e. the period before Islam. 

35 Presumably, his love was so great that no human could have borne it, so through his love-songs the poet/singer was 
alluding to God. The same can be said of much of the love poetry of later mystics who composed poetry. 

36 We have followed the editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition in numbering the words, In the Name of God, the 
Compassionate, the Merciful ( bismi’Llahil-Rahman al-Rahim), known as the Basmala, as the first verse of the first sura. 
The inclusion of the Basmala as a verse of Surat al-Fatiha is obligatory according to the ShafiT school, while more gener- 
ally it is thought not to be incorrect to begin any sura with the Basmala except Surat al-Tawba. Since the verses in the 
MSS are not numbered, it is not possible for us to know whether or not Tustari considered it to be one of the verses 
of Surat al-Fatiha. In any case, it was customary for exegetes to devote a separate section to their commentary on the 
Basmala. 

37 These being the three consonants forming the construct bi ismi meaning ‘in the name of’. 


8 


Introduction to the Commentary 


who take what is permissible according to what is stipulated by their faith. 38 Al-Rahman is a 
name which contains a quality from the aforementioned cryptic letter between the Alif and 
Lam. Al-Rahim is the One who inclines to His servants in kindness by providing for them, this 
being a ramification ( faf ) [of the significance of this name], while in origin it is His initiation 
(ibtidd’) [of all things], as a mercy ( rahmatan ), related to His pre-eternal knowledge. 39 

Abu Bakr added: 

In other words, through the zephyr of His grace, God originated whatever He willed in the king- 
dom of creation, out of mercy because He is the Merciful. c AlI b. Abu Talib 4® said: ‘Al-Rahman 
and al-Rahim are two names of compassion, one of which [signifies] greater compassion than 
the other; 40 by them God, Exalted is He, has expelled despair ( qunut ) from the believers among 
His servants.’ 


38 This is probably the closest that Tustari comes in his Tafsir to the content of the cosmological treatise on letters that has 
been attributed to him, the Risalat al-huruf. See IT, p. xxiv; the dissertation of Gaafar, ch. 4, and Garrido Clemente, ‘El 
Tratado de las Letras’. 

39 Alternatively, we might read it as: ‘this being a ramification ( far c ), while in origin ( asl ) the initiation [of creation] is a 
mercy ( rahma ) connected to His pre-eternal knowledge’. Either way, this passage indicates that Tustari understands the 
creation as a manifestation of God’s quality of being the Merciful, as is confirmed by the explanation that follows it. 

40 lit. ‘are two compassionate names ( isman raqiqan), of which one is more compassionate ( araqq ) than the other’. In his 
commentary on the Basmala, Tabari explains that of the two forms derived from the verbal root r-h-m, al-rahman 
denotes a stronger quality than al-rahlm. According to a tradition narrated in Tabari’s commentary on the authority of 
al- c ArzamI, ‘[the divine name] al-Rahman [denotes mercy] to all creatures, while the name al-Rahim [denotes mercy] 
to the believers’ According to another tradition narrated on the authority of Abu SaTd al-Khudrl, ‘Jesus, the son of 
Mary, said: “Al-Rahman is the Merciful in the next world as well as in this world; al-Rahim is the Merciful in the next 
world.’” See Abu Ja c far al-Tabari, Jam? al-bayan c an ta'wil ay al- Qur'an, published under the title Jam? al-bayan c an tafsir 
al-Qur'an, ed. Mahmud Muhammad Shakir and Ahmad Muhammad Shakir, vols. 1-16, incomplete (Cairo, 1955-69). vol. 
1, pp. 148-9; trans. John Cooper, The Commentary on the Qur'an by Abu J ajar Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari (Oxford, 
1987), pp. 55-6. 


9 


i Al-Fatiha 


[1:2] Praise be to God 1 

Sahl said: 

The meaning of ‘Praise be to God’ ( al-hamdu li’Llah) is ‘thanks be to God’ ( al-shukru li’Llah), 
[for] gratitude towards God is obedience (ta‘a) to Him. Obedience to Him is guardianship 
( wilaya ) 2 from Him, Exalted is He, and thus God, Exalted is He, has said: ‘Your patron (wali) 
is God only, and His Messenger, and the believers...’ [5:55] God’s patronage can only be fully 
attained by becoming free of all other than Him. 

The meaning of Lord of the Worlds is: the Lord of all created beings and the One who rears and 
fosters them ( murabbi ); He is the One who presides over their affairs and who rectifies and 
orders things for them, even before they and their acts are brought into existence. He deals with 
them according to His pre-eternal knowledge of them, as He wills and for whatever purpose 
He wills, wishes, rules, and decrees, regarding that which is commanded and that which is 
forbidden, and they have no lord except Him. 

[1:4] The Master of the Day of Judgement: 

That is, the Day of Reckoning. 

[1:5] You [alone] we worship..., 

That is, we submit to, and humble ourselves before, You alone. We recognise Your lordship and 
we affirm Your oneness, and You do we serve. From this word ( ndbudu ) is derived the word 
c abd meaning ‘servant’. 3 ...And You [alone] we ask for help, that is, in what You have charged 
us with, which is [rightfully] Yours, [and over which] You exercise Your will ( mashfa ) and 
volition ( irada ). 4 5 Moreover, knowledge and sincerity are due only to You. We are incapable 
of [accomplishing that with which You have charged us] except through aid ( maJuna ) and 
steadfastness ( tasdid ) that come from You, for there is no power or strength except that which 
comes from You. 

([1:6] Guide us to the straight path.f 

He [Sahl] was asked, ‘Has not God already guided us to the straight path?’ He replied: 

That is so, but this refers to seeking more from Him, as He has said: and with Us there is yet 
more [50:35]. [Thus] what is meant by His words Guide us is: ‘Support us with Your aid ( maxima ) 
and empowerment ( tamkin )’. 

1 See above, IC, p. 8, n. 36 concerning the numbering of the verses of Surat al-Fatiha. 

2 That is, obedience is a way of manifesting our gratitude, and our gratitude is increased through obedience, while obedi- 
ence itself is a manifestation of Gods patronage and protection. See also above, IC, p. 2, and IT, p. xxxix. The relationship 
between gratitude and divinely bestowed increase is discussed again later, in Tustans commentary on 14:7. 

3 Or ‘slave’. 

4 Gaafar (PhD thesis, p. 224) explains that in Tustari’s theology, God’s Will (or ‘Uncreated Will’, mashfa), is associated 
with His Knowledge, while God’s Volition (or ‘Creative Will’, irada ) is associated with His Omnipotence: ‘The mashfa 
is the gate of Knowledge {bob al-ilm ); the irada is the gate of Omnipotence {bab al-qudra)’. See also Kalam Sahl ibn 

Abd Allah , ed. Gaafar, in Ja c far, Min al-turath al-Tustari, Part 2, p. 202; MS Kopriilii 727, f. 72b. 

5 This verse (1:6) itself is not written out either in the printed edition or in the MSS, though the question and Tustari’s 
response which follow the comment on 1:5 clearly refer to 1:6. 


10 


i Al-Fatiha 


On another occasion he said that Guide us (ihdina) means: 

Guide us ( arshidna ) to the religion of Islam, which is the way to You, through assistance from 
You, which is insight ( basira ), for we cannot be guided except through You, just as he [Moses] 
said: ‘Perhaps my Lord will show me the right way’ [28:22], that is, ‘Guide me to pursue the 
path that leads to Him’. 

I heard Sahl relate on the authority of Muhammad b. Sawwar from Sufyan, who heard it from 
Salim, who was told by Abu al-Ja c d from Thawban, who narrated that the Messenger of God ^ said: 
God says: ‘I have divided the prayer between Me and My servant into two halves. Half of it is 
for Me and the other half is for My servant, and My servant gets what he asks for.’ Thus, when 
the servant says, Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds, God, Exalted is He, says, ‘My servant 
has praised and thanked Me.’ When he says, the Merciful, the Compassionate, [God says], ‘My 
servant has extolled Me’. And when he says. Master of the Day of Judgement, [God says], ‘My 
servant has glorified Me. These verses are for Me and for My servant is what he asks for [in 
the verses that come] after, as when he says, You [alone] we worship, and You [alone] do we ask 
for help. Guide us to the straight path, until the end of the sura! God, Mighty and Majestic 
is He, says: ‘These verses are for My servant and My servant shall receive what he asks for.’ 6 
Sahl said: 

The meaning of ‘My servant has glorified Me’ here is: ‘He has attributed abundant beneficence 
( ihsdn ) and munificence (Mam) to Me’. 

Sahl related on the authority of Mujahid: 

Amin is one of the names of God, Exalted is He . 7 8 Ibn c Abbas A said, ‘The Christians have never 
envied you anything as much as your saying AminP Muhammad b. Sawwar related from Ibn 
TJyayna from c Amr b. Dinar on the authority of Jabir b. c Abd Allah 4®, who related that the 
Messenger of God said, ‘Keep to the straight path, [though] you will not be able to encompass 
[all good actions]. Know that the best of your actions is prayer, and [indeed] only a believer 
observes ablution carefully. Whenever the imam says, Nor [the path] of those who go astray 
[1:7], you should say, 'Amin, for God is pleased with the one who says it, and He accepts his 
prayer and responds to his supplication.’ 

Al-Zuhrl related from Ibn al-Musayyab on the authority of Abu Hurayra 4 ® that the Prophet said, 
‘When the imam says, Nor [the path] of those who go astray, say 'Amin, for truly the angels say 
'Amin, and the one whose pronouncement of ‘Amin is simultaneous with that of the angels will be 
forgiven for all his previous sins.’ 



6 Ibn Maja, Sunan (Beirut, 1995), ‘Al-Adab: Bab thawab al-Qur’an; Abu Dawud al-Sijistanl, Sunan (Beirut, 1988), ‘Kitab 
al-Salat’; TirmidhI, Sunan, ‘Kitab Tafsir al-Qur'an. 

7 Amin is traditionally said following the last verse of Surat al-Fatiha when it is recited during the canonical prayer, or as 
part of other prayers or invocations. When one person makes a supplication on behalf of and in the presence of others, 
it is likewise customary for the congregation to repeat Amin (Amen). 

8 Regarding this saying of Ibn c Abbas, the editor of the Dar al-Kutub al- c Ilmiyya edition cites here another version of the 
tradition, listed in c Abd al-Ra c uf al-MunawI and c Abd al-Salam al-Suyuti, Fayd al-qadir: shark al-Jami c al-saghir min 
ahadith al-bashir al-nadhir (Cairo, 1938), vol. 5, p. 441, in which it is said to have been the Jews rather than the Christians 
who are envious of the Muslims’ saying ( Amin\ 


11 


2 Al-Baqara 


[2:1] AlifLam Mim 

Sahl said: 

AlifLam Mim is a name of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and within it are meanings and 
attributes that people of understanding ( fahm ) know, not to mention the many meanings that it 
holds for the people of outward [knowledge]. 1 If these letters are read separately, Alif stands for 
God’s assembling [things in their creation] (tadij), Mighty and Majestic is He, for He brought 
together all things as He willed. The Lam stands for His pre-eternal grace ( lutfuhu al-qadim) 
and the Mim stands for His great glory ( majduhu al-azim). 

Sahl said: 

Each book that God, Exalted is He, sent down contains a secret, and the secret of the Qur an 
is contained within the letters which open the suras, because they are names and attributes, 
such as when He says AlifLam Mim [2:1; 3:1; 29:1 and 31:1], Sad [38:1], AlifLam Ra [10:1; 11:1; 
13:1; 14:1 and 15:1], KafHa Yd Ayn Sad [19:1], Td Sin Mim [26:1 and 28:1], Ha Mim [41:1], Ayn 
Sin Qaf . 2 When these letters are brought together they make up the Greatest Name of God 3 4 — 
that is, if a letter is taken from each [group] of the opening letters of the suras, one after the 
other in the order that the suras were revealed, that is, AlifLam Ra, Ha Mim, and Nun* they 
form the divine name al-Rahman .’ Ibn "Abbas and Dahhak, on the other hand, said that Alif 
Lam Mim means ‘I am God and I know’; while "All 4 * said that these are names [in the form 
of] ‘disconnected’ [letters], but if a letter is taken from each of the opening groups of letters, 
on the condition that it is not the same as the letter adjacent to it, and then they are assembled, 
they form one of the names of the Merciful. If this name is known and used in supplication, it 
will be the mightiest name by which the prayer of the supplicant who uses it will be answered. 

Sahl said: 

In the words AlifLam Mim, That Book [2:1-2], Alif stands for God (Allah), Lam stands for 
the servant ( c abd ), and Mim stands for Muhammad §$■ So, [through these letters] the servant 
may gain access to his Master from the position of affirming His oneness ( tawhid ) and by fol- 
lowing the example of His Prophet. 5 


1 Note that above, IC, p. 2, Tustarl had connected understanding (fahm) to the inner meanings of the Qur'an. 

2 The ‘disconnected letters’ (al-huruf dl-muqatta c a), also referred to in English as the ‘mysterious letters’ with which some 
of the suras begin, have been the subject of many traditional interpretations as well as modern theories. Traditional 
interpretations include the view that they represent names of Qur'anic suras, or names of God, as in the first tradition 
presented by Tustari above, or that they have mystical significance, or a cryptic meaning, as in the second interpretation 
he presents above. They are also sometimes subject to interpretations based on the numerical values of the letters. See K. 
Massey, ‘Mysterious Letters’, EQ, vol. v, 412-4. For a discussion of one non-Muslim attempt to explain the significance of 
the detached letters, see Neal Robinson, Discovering the Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text (Washington, 
D.C., 2003), pp. 26off. 

3 In this instance, the Greatest Name is said to be al-Rahman, but below it is said to be Allah. 

4 Sura 68 (The Pen) commences with this letter. 

5 See above, IC, p. 9, n. 38 and IT, p. xxiv, concerning Tustarl’s Risalat al-huruf. In that treatise Tustari ascribes special 
cosmological significance to the letters alif, waw and yd, with alif being assigned to the rational power ( quwwa natiqa), 
waxv being assigned to the ‘animal force’ (quwwa haywaniyya ), and yd being assigned to ‘natural activity’ (quwwa 


12 


2 Al-Baqara 


Sahl further said: 

I received [a tradition] on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas according to which he said: ‘God, Exalted 
is He, has sworn that this Book which was revealed to Muhammad U is the book from Gods 
presence, Exalted is He. So He said: Alif Lam Mim, That Book... [In these words], Alif stands 
for God (Allah), Lam stands for Gabriel 35 Bl and Mlm stands for Muhammad H, thus God, 
Exalted is He, has taken an oath by Himself, by the angel Gabriel 350 and by Muhammad M'- 
He also said: 

God, Exalted is He, extracted from His Greatest Name [Allah] 6 the letters Alif, Lam and Ha? and 
said: Indeed I am God, the Lord of the Worlds [ 28 : 30 ] / and for [His creatures’] sake He derived 
a name from among His names and made it the name of His Prophet M, and He derived from 
the end of the name of His Prophet fg the name of His prophet Adam 3501. 8 Thus He says: That 
is because God is the Patron [or Friend] of those who believe, and those who disbelieve have no 
patron [ 47 : 11 ] — except the Devil, that is, Satan. 

[2:2] ...In it there is no doubt (rayb)... 

This means that there is no uncertainty ( shakk ) in it. A guidance for those who are mindful of 
God (muttaqun) — that is, an explanation ( baydn ) for those who are mindful of God . 9 The 
mindful of God are those who have freed themselves from the claim of possessing any power 
or strength except in God, Exalted is He, and who have resorted to taking refuge [in Him] and 
depending solely on His power and strength in every situation. So God has assisted them and 
provided for them whence they had no reckoning , 10 and made for them a source of relief and 
release from the trials to which He has subjected them. 

Sahl [further] said: 

God’s power ( hawl ) and strength ( quwwa ) are [manifest in] His act, His act is according to His 
knowledge, and His knowledge is among the attributes belonging to His essence . * 11 The power 
and strength of the servant are but a temporary claim which lasts only until the last hour. The 
last hour is in the possession of God alone, Exalted is He. 

[2:3] The [ones who are] mindful of God are those who believe in the unseen... 

God is the unseen and His religion is the unseen, and God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has 
ordered them to believe in the unseen, to free themselves from [any claim] to power and 


tabfiyya) (trans. Gaafar, PhD thesis, pp. 97-8). 

6 See above, Tustari s commentary on the Basmala and 2:1, and the accompanying notes. 

7 These are among the words spoken to Moses from the burning bush. 

8 i.e. when the last two letters, mlm and dal , are taken in reverse order. Here is an allusion to the doctrine that in pre- 
eternity, the existence of the Prophet Muhammad preceded all creatures and all the other prophets derived their light 
from him, although he was the last to appear in the sublunary world. This is discussed by Tustari in his commentary 
on 11:40. On this doctrine see IT, pp. xxxiff. A later discussion is presented by Maybudi, Kashf al-asrar, vol. 10, p. 202. 

9 The words taqwa and muttaqi are derived from the verb w-q-y, which means to ‘be mindful, aware or wary of’ some- 
thing, though these two derivatives are often translated as ‘fear of God’ and ‘God-fearing’, respectively. However, there 
are various words for different forms of fear [of God], such as khawf khashy and wara c (these are discussed later in the 
commentary by Tustari), and therefore we are translating the word taqwa in cases such as this as ‘mindfulness of God’, 
and muttaqi as the one who is mindful of God. The expressions ‘fear of God’ or ‘God-fearing’ will only be used in our 
translation of these words in those contexts where a particular emphasis is placed on the sense of wariness and awe 
towards God. On taqwa in Tustari’s teachings see above IT, p. lvi. 

10 That is, from a source which they had not taken into account. 

11 We have seen above, p. 10, that God’s Knowledge is the ‘gate’, hence ‘prior’ to His Uncreated Will ( mashfa ), which precedes 
His Creative Will and Omnipotence, not in their existence but in their effects. But, as Gaafar explains, Tustari also sug- 
gests that the Uncreated Will of God is an immediate stage that succeeds His Knowledge. In his Kitab al-Mu c arada, MS 
Kopriilii 727, f. 212a, Tustari outlines the stages of creation as being firstly Knowledge (that is, the divine Omniscience); 
secondly, the Book, comprising all the decrees of God, which are susceptible of effacement or affirmation ( mahw wa 
ithbat, through mashfa ); thirdly there is qada, the affirmed Decree of God ( hukm thabit)-, and fourthly, there is qadar, 
the actual manifestation of that which has been decreed. See Gaafar, PhD thesis, pp. 223-5. 


13 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


strength concerning that which they have been commanded to do and prohibited from doing, 
in faith, speech and action and to say, ‘We have no power ( hawl ) to keep ourselves from diso- 
bedience save through Your protection ( Hsma ), and we have no strength ( quwwa ) to obey You 
save through Your aid ( mduna ).’ This is [a result of] of His compassion ( ishfdq ) towards them, 
and of His assisting them so that they do not claim power, strength and ability as did those 
who were damned from pre-eternity. When [these latter] saw the punishment with their own 
eyes, they disowned [their claim] , but their disavowal did not avail them after they had actually 
seen the punishment. God has informed us about those who fit this description in His words 
But their faith was of no benefit to them when they (actually) saw Our punishment [40:85], and: 
Their only plea when Our might came upon them, was to say, ‘We were evildoers indeed’ [7:5]. 
Similarly, Pharaoh claimed to have power, strength and ability, and said, ‘Whenever I wish to 
believe, I will believe’, but when he actually came to believe it was not accepted from him, as 
God, Exalted is He, said, Now — when hitherto you have disobeyed and been of those who do 
corruption? [10:91] 

[2:3] ...And spend out of what We have provided them: 

Sahl said: 

Truly God, Exalted is He, has described in this way those whom He has moulded with a certain 
nature, who are connected to Him by a certain link, and who never lapse in their heedfulness 
( muraqaba ) of Him. They are those who never made a choice and desired nothing other than 
Him. Their only choice is that He should choose for them, even as He has chosen them for 
Himself. 12 They desire nothing that has any relation to another which will remove them from 
their dependence solely on Him, for they have freed themselves from other than Him. 

Abu Bakr relates that it was said to Sahl: ‘Truly God has granted you wisdom ( hikma)’, to which 
he replied: 

Indeed, God willing, I have been granted wisdom (hikma) and [a knowledge of] the unseen 
( ghayb ) which I was taught from the unseen of His secret ( min ghayb sirrihi ), 13 and thus He 
sufficed me from the need for all other knowledge — and that the ultimate end is toward your 
Lord [53:42], and He completed what He had begun with me out of His grace and beneficence. 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[2:5] Those are upon guidance from their Lord... 

That is, a clear explanation ( bayan ) from their Lord: by the light of His guidance hearts witness 
Him in confident abandonment to Him due to a light from His light, by which He singled them 
out in His prior knowledge. 14 They do not speak except with guidance ( huda ), and their inner 
perception is solely directed towards that guidance. So those who are guided by [this light] 
are never left by it; they are [constant] witnesses to it because they are never absent from it. If 
people were to ask them about it they would inform them, and if they were to will [something] , 
it would quickly be brought about. 15 Thus ...they are the ones who will prosper [2:5], and they are 
directed to guidance and success through His guidance. [It is they who will] remain ( bdquna ) 
in Paradise with the permanent subsistence (baqa?) of God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 16 


12 That is according to all three MSS (Z515, f. 10b, F638, f. 6a and F3488, f. 188b), which have: kama ikhtarahum lahu, as 
opposed to kama ikhtdra.hu lahum. 

13 That is, perhaps, from the profound, secret link between man in his deepest being and God. This is explained by Tustari 
in his commentary on 2:41. See also IT, p. xlviii. 

14 There may be an allusion here both to 24:40 and to a hadith, which reads ‘Verily God created the creatures in darkness, 
and then He cast upon them some of His light. Whosoever was touched by that light found guidance and whomsoever 
it missed went astray.’ Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad (Cairo, 1895), vol. 2, pp. 176 and 197; TirmidhI, Sunan, ‘Kitab al-Iman, 
and Nawadir al-usul, vol. 2, p. 413. 

15 lit. ‘things would hasten to [fulfil] their wish’. 

16 We shall see later that Tustari describes the grace which God grants to those who have found guidance and success, 
beyond the blessings and delights of Paradise, as being: ‘life with Life itself’, and ‘permanent subsistence with Permanent 
Subsistence itself’. 


14 


2 Al-Baqara 


Then Sahl said: 

It was transmitted to me that God, Exalted is He, revealed to David $8 the words: ‘Make 
sure that I do not pass you by, for in that case you would forgo everything. Verily I created 
Muhammad M for My sake, and I created Adam SSB for his sake. 17 1 created My believing serv- 
ants for My worship, and I created all other things for [the service of] the son of Adam. 18 So if 
he preoccupies himself with that which I have created for his service, I will veil him from that 
[for] which I created [him] for My sake.’ 19 
[2:22] ...So set not up compeers (andad) to God... 

That is, adversaries {addad) 20 and the greatest adversary is the self that incites to evil ( al-nafs 
al-ammara bi’l-su 3 ), which is only bent on its own pleasures ( huzuz ) and cravings ( muna ), 
without having any regard for guidance from God. 21 
Sahl was asked about God’s words: 

[2:25] ...They shall be given it [the fruits] in perfect semblance; ...and therefor them shall be 
spouses, purified. .., 

He replied: 

In Paradise there are no carpets, vessels, clothes, perfume, birds or plants, nor any fruits [as we 
know them] . Thus the semblance that the things of this world bear to those [mentioned in the 
verse] is no more than a coincidence in their names. So the pomegranate of this world does 
not in the least resemble the pomegranate in Paradise, except in name. The same is the case 
with resemblance of the date, the jujube and other such fruits [to those of Paradise] . What is 
intended in His saying in [perfect] semblance is only a likeness in colour, for there is a differ- 
ence in taste. When in Paradise the angels bring an apple to the friends of God {awliya’) during 
the day, and then they bring them another during the night, and they ask, ‘Is this one [like the 
other] ?’ They are told, ‘Taste it’, and on tasting it they experience a different taste to that of the 
first one. It should not be discounted from God’s ability, Exalted is He, that He could make an 
apple taste like a pomegranate, almond or quince.’ 

Sahl continued: 

Indeed I know one of the friends of God {awliya') who saw on the seashore a man who had before 
him the biggest pomegranate that there ever was. The friend of God {wall) asked him what he 
had before him, to which he replied, ‘It is a pomegranate that I saw in Paradise. I desired it so 
God granted it to me, but when He placed it before me I regretted my haste for having it while 
still in this world.’ That man [the wall] asked, ‘May I eat some of it?’ and the man responded, 
‘If you have the capacity to eat it, then do so’; 22 upon which he grabbed the fruit from him and 
ate most of it. When the man saw him eating the fruit he it was astounded and said, ‘Receive 
glad tidings of Paradise, for I did not know your [spiritual] rank before you ate it; no one eats 
of the food of Paradise in this life except the people of Paradise.’ 

Then Abu Bakr asked Sahl if the one who had eaten the pomegranate had informed him of its taste, 
to which he replied: 

He did, and its taste brings together the tastes of all fruits, and in addition it has a smoothness 
and coolness which is unlike any of the tastes [experienced] in this world. 


17 That is, so that the Muhammadan Reality could become manifest. Again, see above, IT, pp. xxxiff. 

18 That is, humanity in general. 

19 Or, ‘from that which I created for My sake,’ i.e. the Prophet. 

20 The Quhanic word used is andad , which can mean ‘peer’, ‘partner’ or alternatively ‘antagonist’, ‘rival’. Tustari had clearly 
understood it to mean the latter here. 

21 On the term nafs ammara, or more fully, al-nafs al-ammara bi’l-su 3 and more generally on Tustarl’s teachings concerning 
the nafs, see above, IT, pp. xxxviiiff, and especially pp. xliff. 

22 If it is read in the passive (i.e. qudirta instead of qadarta), it could mean ‘if you are foreordained to eat it’, which is how 
Bowering translates it. 


15 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Then Abu Bakr commented, ‘I have no doubt, nor does anyone who heard this story from Sahl, that 
he himself was in fact both the possessor of that pomegranate and the one who ate it.’ 

Sahl was asked about His words: 

[2:30] ...I am appointing on earth a vicegerent... 

He answered: 

God, Exalted is He, before he created Adam SKS said to the angels I am appointing on earth a 
vicegerent, and He created Adam from the clay of might consisting of the light of Muhammad M, 
and He informed him that his self which incites evil ( al-nafs al-ammara bi’l-su 2 ) would be his 
worst enemy, 23 and that He had created it so that he conduct it [on the path] to Him, accord- 
ing to his knowledge of it, regarding notions ( khawdtir ) 24 and impulses ( himam ) [which arise 
in it], and that he [Adam] conduct it in such a way as to remain utterly dependent on Him, 
seeking refuge in Him. 25 If He shows it an act of obedience, it should respond by saying, ‘O 
help me!’, and if it is moved to an act of disobedience, it should cry out, ‘O protect me!’ If it is 
moved to a blessing, it should say, ‘Grant me a share of it!’ If He says to it, ‘Be patient in the 
face of tribulation, it should respond saying, ‘O, grant me patience!’ His [man’s] heart should 
not entertain the slightest whispering ( waswasa ) of the self without abandoning it and return- 
ing to its Lord. God, Exalted is He, made the natural propensity (tab c ) of the self such that it is 
passive when faced with commandments and active when faced with prohibitions. However, 
He commanded it to respond with passivity when inclined to activity, and to be active when 
inclined to passivity, with the words, ‘There is neither power nor strength except in God’, that 
is, there is no power to resist disobeying Him except through His protection, and no strength 
to obey Him except with His aid. 

Then He ordered him [Adam] to enter the Garden and eat from it at ease wherever he wished, 
after which He decreed to him that he may not eat from the Tree. When he entered the Garden 
and saw what he saw there, he said, ‘If only we could stay here forever; yet, indeed, we have an 
appointed time that extends to a known limit.’ Then Satan approached him, on account of his 
heart’s accommodating itself ( musdkana ) 26 to the whispering of his lower self, and said, ‘Shall 
I lead you to the tree of eternity that you long for in this abode, which is the means to attain 
immortality and everlastingness?’, and he added, Your Lord only prohibited you both from this 
tree, lest you become angels or immortals [7:20]. His argument was just a form of deception. 
Thereby God, Mighty and Majestic is He, inflicted on [Adam] the Adversary’s whispering, in 
accordance with His pre- eternal knowledge concerning him, and in fulfilment of what He had 
preordained and justly decreed for him. 27 


23 Here and in his commentary on 2:22 above, Tustarl is alluding to a hadith of the Prophet in which he is reported to have 
said: ‘Your greatest enemy is your lower self ( nafs ) which is between your two sides’ This hadith is listed in Ahmad b. 
al-Husayn al-Bayhaql’s Kitab al-Zuhd al-kabir (Kuwait, 1983), p. 190. Ghazall cites the hadith in the Iliya* c ulum al-din, 
Book 21: Kitab Sharh c aja*ib al-qalb. 

24 The word khatir (pi. khawdtir ) has the sense of a thought which is stirred up in the mind, or occurs unexpectedly to 
a person. KalabadhI explains that there are four kinds of khatar: one that comes from God; one that comes from an 
angel; one that comes from the nafs ; and one that comes from the Enemy (i.e. Satan). See his Kitab al-Ta c arruf pp. 90-1; 
English trans. Arberry, p. 80. 

25 That is reading yusirraha on the basis of MSS Z515, f. 12a, F638, f. 7a and F3488, f. 190a, instead of ya*muraha as in the 
printed edition. It is also possible to read God as the subject throughout the sentence, in which case it would translate 
as: \ . .and He created it so that He might conduct it to Himself, according to His knowledge of it, regarding notions and 
impulses which arise in it, and that He might conduct it in the state of utter dependence on Him. . 

26 It will be seen that Tustari uses the term musdkana in a very particular way for the lower self’s or heart’s accommodating 
itself to, or acquiescing in, a desire that arises, or a suggestion that concerns, other than God, or the disobeying of His 
command. 

27 Concerning Tustarl’s doctrines of the dangers of the nafs , see Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 258. 


16 


2 Al-Baqara 


The first instance of forgetfulness ( nisyan ) that took place in Paradise was the forgetfulness of 
Adam, and it was a deliberate forgetfulness, not accidental, that is, it signified his abandonment 
of the Covenant. 28 

Sahl said: 

I was informed in an account of one of the Followers ( tdbi c un ) 29 that he [the Prophet] said that 
forgetfulness in the Book of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, is of two kinds. [One is] abandon- 
ment, as for example in Surat al-Baqara, Or we cause to be forgotten [2:106] , when it means: ‘We 
abandon it and we do not abrogate it’; and also in His words: Forget not kindness between you 
[2:237], meaning: ‘Do not abandon kindness between yourselves’; and likewise in Surat Ta Ha, 
but he [Moses] forgot [20:88], meaning: ‘He has abandoned the Covenant’. Another example 
occurs in Surat al-Sajda, in the words, Taste [now] , for your having forgotten the encounter of 
this day of yours, and We [too] shall forget you [32:14], meaning: ‘We shall abandon you to your 
punishment as We lifted Our protection from you when you persisted in committing sin.’ 

He continued: 

The other meaning of forgetfulness is when someone cannot remember because the informa- 
tion leaves his memory, exemplified by his [Moses’] words [narrated] in Surat al-Kahf, I did 
indeed forget the fish [18:63], meaning: ‘I couldn’t keep it in my memory’ — this is due to the 
fact that God, Exalted is He, has made Satan a partner with the natural self ( nafs al-jibilla ) 
regarding the desires that it has which have nothing to do with God, Exalted is He. 30 Another 
example is in Moses’ words to Khidr, Do not take me to task on account of that which I forgot 
[18:73], meaning: ‘That which escaped my memory’. Also He said in Sura Sabbih [Surat al-A c la], 
We will have you recite [ the Qur'an ], so you do not forget. [87:6] — that is: ‘We shall have you 
memorise [the Qur an] , so that you do not forget if. 

So this [Adam’s forgetfulness and Satan’s access to him] was because of his preoccupation with 
his own devising ( tadbir ). 31 His thought [for everlasting life] did not involve any considered 
reflection which might have made it a form of worship, but rather it was a kind of thinking that 
springs from a disposition (taV) in his self (nafs al-jibilla). God, Exalted is He, decreed when 
He created the heavens and the earth, that if He sees in a person’s heart something in which he 
is acquiescing other than Himself, that person will be overpowered by Satan, who will whisper 
in his breast (sadr) to his lower self, by [generating] a desire, such that it [the nafs] will invite 
him to pursue it. Or he may turn back to his Lord seeking refuge in Him and clinging to His 
protection ( i c tisdm ). However, in his native land, 32 God concealed His remembrance from 
[Adam] until after he had committed that which was forbidden, so that His prior knowledge 
concerning that which He had forbidden him could be fulfilled; and Adam’s act [of disobedi- 
ence] then became a habit 33 among his progeny up until the Day of Resurrection. In reality, 
God did not mean by this the matter of eating [from the tree], but rather the acquiescence 
( musdkana ) of the desire ( himma ) in something other than Him. Phrased another way, [God 

28 The covenant that is being referred to here is the pact that God took from Adam in Paradise that he would not eat of 
the tree (the Qur'an does not, like the Bible, specify that it is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), and Tustari s 
words appear to be an allusion to 20:115: And We made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot, and We did not find 
any constancy in him. 

29 The tabi c un are the generation immediately after the Companions of the Prophet. 

30 The construct here: nafs al-jibilla is similar to that of nafs al-tab c and Tustari may here be using jibilla as more or less 
equivalent to tabH On Tustari s teachings concerning different levels of the nafs, see IT, pp. xliff. 

31 i.e. his thinking about how much better it would be if he were to live forever in Paradise. In Sufi writings, human plan- 
ning and contrivance ( tadbir ) are often contrasted with divine determination and decree ( taqdir ). The latter, of course, 
is always shown to overcome the former. In the course of his commentary, Tustari frequently warns against having 
recourse to our own planning and attempts to manage our lives (tadbir), which are both incompatible with true trust 
in God. On tadbir and taqdir see IT, pp. xxxivff. 

32 i.e. Paradise. 

33 That is a habitual practice or norm ( sunna ). The published edition has sarafiHuhu Him sunnatan, whereas MS 515, f. 13a 
omits the word Him, which in any case should have been in the accusative. 


17 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


is saying] : ‘He [man] should not concern himself with anything other than Me’. Adam S 3 was 
not protected from the desire ( himma ) and the act (fiT ) in Paradise, so what befell him, befell 
him for that reason. Similarly, he who claims what is not his, while his heart appeases him by 
entertaining the desire of his lower self, will be afflicted with God’s abandonment (tark), Mighty 
and Majestic is He, notwithstanding the fact that God naturally disposed his lower self to it, 
unless He has mercy upon him by protecting him from his own devising ( tadblr ), and helps 
him against his enemy, that is, his self that incites to evil. 34 The people of Paradise, when they 
are in Paradise, will be protected from the planning ( tadblr ) that they were accustomed to in 
the abode of this world. Yet Adam, when he was placed in Paradise, was not protected from 
his heart’s acquiescence in the planning of his lower self for immortality. Do you not see that 
calamity ( bald befell him because of the reliance ( sukun ) of his heart upon what his lower self 
whispered to him? And so desire ( hawd ) and lust ( shahwa ) overwhelmed knowledge ( Him ), 
the intellect ( c aql ), lucidity ( bayan ) and the light of the heart ( nur al-qalb), on account of that 
which God, Exalted is He, had preordained. Thus the end of the situation was as the Prophet M 
foretold when he said: ‘Truly passion and desire overwhelm knowledge and intellect’. 35 

[2:37] Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He relented towards him... 

Sahl was asked, ‘What were the words that Adam learnt from his Lord?’ He replied: 

Muhammad b. Sawwar informed me, [in a narration] from his father, from al-Thawri, from 
c Abd al- c Aziz b. Raff, on the authority of c Abd Allah b. c Umar 4 >> that he [the latter] said: ‘When 
Adam 8SB recalled his error he said: “O Lord, do you see the act of disobedience by which I 
disobeyed You as something that You preordained for me before You created me, or some- 
thing that I initiated?” He replied: “Indeed, it is something that I preordained for you, that 
you would do as a consequence of My lifting My protection from you, fifty thousand years 
before creating you.” Then Adam 8SS asked, “As you preordained it for me, then forgive me, 
for indeed We have wronged our own souls [7:23], through carrying out the lower self’s desire 
and relying on its devising, and we have repented from ever going back to that. If You do not 
forgive us — that is, in this life, and have mercy upon us, during what remains of our lives we 
shall surely he among the lost [7:23] — that is, among the damned and tormented in the Here- 
after.’” So these were the words which God, Exalted is He, was speaking about when He said: 
Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and his Lord relented towards him, truly 
He is the Relenting, the Merciful. 

It was related from the Prophet M that he said: ‘Adam asked Moses, (peace be upon them both), 
“How many years before my creation do you find that my sin was destined for me?” He replied, 
“Forty thousand years.’” The Prophet M then said, ‘Thus did Adam confute Moses (peace be 
upon them both).’ 36 

Sahl was asked about God’s words: 

[2:30] .. .Whilst we glorify You with praise and sanctify You... 

It means ‘We purify ourselves for Your sake by saying what You inspired us to say through the 
favour that You bestowed upon us. Blessed are You, O our Lord!’ 

[2:40] ...And be in awe of Me. 


34 MSS Z515, f. 13a and F3488, f. 191a both have nafs while F638, f. 7b has al-nafs al-ammara bil-stf. None of the MSS has 
Iblts wa, which is in the printed edition. 

35 The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition notes that this is not a prophetic hadith, but a saying of Harith b. Asad, 
which is cited in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 10, p. 88. 

36 This is part of a tradition which relates how the prophet Moses rebukes Adam for being the one who had humankind 
exiled from Paradise. Adams response is to remind Moses that all this was predestined by God before his creation. For 
an account of this tradition, see Shihab al-DIn Ahmad SanTanl, Rawh al-arwahft shark asma' al-Malik al-Fattah (Tehran, 
1989), p. 156. 


18 


2 Al-Baqara 


Sahl was asked, ‘What is this awe ( rahba ) that He commanded them to feel towards Him?’ He replied: 
He meant by this, the [true] locating of the light of certainty ( mawdf nur al-yaqln) 37 in rela- 
tion to the heart’s insight ( basar al-qalb ), and gnosis ( mcfrifa ) in relation to the entirety of 
the heart ( kulliyat al-qalb). For endurance ( mukabada ) and struggle ( mujahada ) are a part of 
faith r for the sake of God ( Iman li’Llah) 1 . Then, when the heart ceases to have fear of all other 
than Him, the light of certainty is unveiled, and the servant who abides in faith for the sake 
of God, attains r to faith in [or through] God ( Iman bi’Llah ) 1 , 38 with an unshakeable realisa- 
tion of His oneness ( tawhldan c ald tamkln), by which I mean, his heart is in a state of tranquil 
and confident repose with his Master ( sukun qalbihi ild mawldhu ). 39 Consequently, the light 
of certainty unveils the knowledge of the eye of certainty ( Him c ayn al-yaqln), 40 and this is the 
attainment ( wusul ) of God, Exalted is He. For this certainty, by virtue of the light of certainty 
( bi-nur al-yaqln) that leads to the eye of certainty, is not Something that is brought into being 
(mukawwan) 1 , 41 nor is it something created ( makhluq ); rather it is a light from the light of the 
essence of God (dhbt al-Haqq ), not in the sense of an indwelling ( hulul ), nor of conjoining 
( jam c ), or conjunction ( ittisdl ). Rather, the meaning of the servant’s attainment ( ittisdl ) 42 of his 
Master refers to the [true] locating ( mawdf ) of his realisation of the divine oneness, and his 
obedience to God and His Messenger. 

So, according to the strength of his perception (basar) of God, he will attain full awareness 
( taqwd ) and awe (rahba) of Him. The root of full awareness of God is in relinquishing the 
lower self (mubdyanat al-nafs ), 43 so let [the servant] relinquish [the lower self] for this, and not 
accommodate any of the pleasures [demanded by] its desire (hawd), nor any of those pleasures 
to which it [the lower self] is summoning him, and for which it has no excuse . 44 Know that 
human beings will vary in rank on the Day of Resurrection according to the measure of the 
light of certainty that they possess. The weightier the certainty a person has the heavier will 
his scales weigh, even though there might [otherwise] be less in his scales. 

He [Sahl] was asked, ‘How can you tell the soundness of someone’s certainty?’ To which he replied: 
By the strength of his confidence (thiqa) in God, Exalted is He, and his good opinion (husn 
al-zann) of Him . 45 Trust in God is witnessing (mushahada) through certainty (yaqln), the eye 
of certainty ( c ayn al-yaqln), and the wholeness [of its vision] (kulliyyatihi). Its perfection and 
goal is the attainment of God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 


37 The words Tight of certainty’ have been substituted here for light of the self (nur al-nafs ) on the basis of Bowering’s 
translation of this passage. We have found this only in MS F3488, f. 191b. The other two MSS (Z515, f. 14a, F638, f. 8a), 
as well as the printed edition, have nur al-nafs. 

38 These two additions were made with reference to MSS Z515, f. 14a and F638, f. 8a. 

39 Tustarl appears to be teaching that endurance and struggle remain at the level of faith Tor God’, that is, while the aspirant 
is in a state of separation from God, believing from the point of view of duality. However, once he reaches the level of 
tamkln in tawhld, that is, firmly and unshakeably in the realisation of the divine oneness, he will have attained the level 
of faith in or through God. At this level also there can be no fear or awareness (taqwd) of other than God, because he 
is not conscious of anything other than God. On faith and certainty, see also IT, above p. xlviii. 

40 The word c ayn in this context was added from the MSS Z515, f. 14a and F3488, f. 192a. MS F638, f. 8a, however, has Him 
al-yaqln, like the published edition. On the expression c ayn al-yaqln, see above IT, p. xlix, n. 209. 

41 ‘Brought into being or existentiated ( mukawwan)' was added on the basis of the MSS: MS Z515, f. 14a, F638, f. 8a and 
F3488, f. 192a. 

42 Sic in all the MSS as well as the published edition. Perhaps it should have been wusul here, as earlier in the passage. 
Alternatively, the previous ittisdl, should perhaps have been ittihad. 

43 Or it could mean ‘separating the self [from the unreal]’. 

44 Tustari has returned in his discourse to the level of awareness of the separation of the slave and his Master, perhaps to 
remind his listeners on the one hand that, aside from those moments when the mystic experiences union with God, 
when he attains the realisation of tawhld through God, and the envisioning or eye’ of certainty ( c ayn al-yaqln), the 
awareness of man’s slavehood and God’s lordship must remain. On the other hand, it is a reminder that the way to taqwd 
and rahba requires the purification of the self from its desires and from other than God. 

45 The subject of good opinion [of God] husn al-zann is discussed further by Tustari later in his commentary on this sura, 
and is also discussed above, IT, pp. lii-liii. 


19 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


[2:41] ...And fear Me 46 

When asked about this verse, Sahl replied: 

What He means by this is [their being aware] of His prior knowledge concerning them, that is, 
‘You should never feel secure from the [divine] ruse ( makr ), 47 nor of His act of giving respite 
( istidraj ), 48 such that your hearts become complacent in the observance of your security in this 
world while you persist in falling short [in good works] ; nor should you rely upon My leniency 
towards you in the matter of [not] hastening your punishment, in that same [false] sense of 
security, and in your delusion ( ightirdr ) and heedlessness (ghafla ), lest you perish.’ 49 
The Prophet $$ said: ‘Had Jesus the son of Mary SS® had greater certainty ( yaqln ) he would have 
walked in the air as he walked on water.’ 50 And truly our Prophet traversed the air on the 
Night Journey (Israf due to the strength of the light of his certainty, [a certainty] which God, 
Exalted is He, granted to him from His light, as an increase in light to the light that he already 
possessed from God, Exalted is He. The Prophet H also said: ‘If gnosis ( mdrifa ) had remained 
firmly rooted in the heart of David 8S® and he had not slipped into negligence, he would not 
have fallen into disobedience.’ By my life, truly gnosis (ma c rifa) was enclosed within its own 
abodes ( udrijatft awtaniha ), 51 in order that what was contained within God’s prior knowledge 
concerning him would befall him. This is because it [God’s prior knowledge] inevitably had 
to be manifested in his qualities, since God’s knowledge is a final decree that cannot change 
to other than what the All-Knowing knows. Mighty and Majestic is He. Indeed God, Mighty 
and Majestic is He, concealed [from David] 8S® in David’s realm, the light of certainty ( nur 
al-yaqln ) by which he could have perceived [with] the eye of certainty ( c ayn al-yaqln ) and the 
wholeness [of its vision], 52 in order that His decree could thereby be fulfilled, Exalted is He. 
Do you not see that in reality the servant only beholds God by means of a subtle ‘substance’ 
( latlfa ) from God, through its connection to his heart ( bi-wusuliha ila-qalbihi). This subtle 
substance pertains to the attributes of the essence of his Lord. It is neither brought into being 
( mukawwana ), nor created ( makhluqa ), neither conjunct [with God] ( mawsula ), nor cut off 
[from Him] ( maqtffa ). It is a secret ( sirr ) from a secret to a secret, an unseen [mystery] (ghayb ) 
from an unseen to an unseen. 53 Certainty is through God, and the servant finds certainty due to 
a cause that comes directly from Him to the servant, according to the measure of the gifts that 
God has apportioned him, and the wholeness (jumla ) of his innermost heart (suwaydtf qalbihi). 
Faith has two abodes ( watanan ), 54 and it is that which settles and does not leave. The light 
of certainty, [however] comes in momentary [flashes] and when it settles and takes root, it 
becomes faith. Thereafter certainty comes in flashes and increases in this manner indefinitely. 

[2:42] And do not obscure the truth with falsehood, and do not conceal truth wittingly. 


46 Or we might translate this as ‘Be fully aware’ or ‘mindful of Me’. The Qur anic words are iyyaya fattaqun. 

47 The word makr is used in Sufism to refer to an illusion created by God to test the spiritual wayfarer. 

48 The word istidraj here means God’s drawing a person to destruction little by little, so that they are lulled into a sense of 
security and thinking that all is well. 

49 Tustari is here using iltifat, the rhetorical feature of the Qur'an, which involves shifts between the first person singular 
(or plural) and the third person singular. 

50 Bayhaqi, Kitab al-Zuhd al-kabir, p. 357. 

51 That is to say, God decreed that it (gnosis) should not be available to the prophet David at that moment, just as we see 
further down in this same passage that God concealed from him the light of certainty. 

52 lit. and its entirety’ ( kulliyya ). See above, IT, p. xlix, and the commentary on 102:7 below. 

53 This passage is closely related to, and helps to clarify, the passage cited above on the previous verse (2:40), which discussed 
attainment of the eye of certainty (jayn al-yaqin). Both passages use different words derived from the root w-s-l (here 
wusul, in the previous passage ittisal ), indicating an indefinable connection and closeness to God, that nonetheless does 
not imply any conjunction, or indwelling on the part of God. 

54 Sic in the published edition and all three MSS. Tustari does not say what these two abodes are, though elsewhere he 
states that the locus of faith ( iman ) is the heart ( qalb ), on which see above IT, p. xlii. 


20 


2 Al-Baqara 


Sahl was asked about this verse, to which he replied: 

This means, ‘Do not cover up a matter of the Hereafter because of a worldly concern.’ What 
[God] means is that it is not allowed for the people of truth to conceal the truth from the people 
of truth ( ahl al-haqq) in particular, or from those who long to be guided thereby to God. As 
for the people of truth, they will increase in insight ( basira ) [through hearing it], and as for 
those who are not of the elite of the people of truth, the words of God are a source of guidance 
for them and of direction to God, Exalted is He. 

[ 2 : 45 ] Seek help in patience and prayer... 

When asked about these words Sahl said: 

Patience here [means] fasting, while prayer [means] the bond ( wasla ) of gnosis ( malrifa ). He 
whose prayer — this being his bond [with God] — is sound, will be exempt from accusation 
( tuhma ) before God; for interrogation (su'd!) is a form of accusation, but with this bond there 
remains no interrogation. Do you not take note of His words [in the second part of this verse], 
It is hard indeed, except for the humble ? 55 

[ 2 : 48 ] ...and no intercession shall be accepted from it [the soul], nor shall compensation be taken, 
neither shall they be helped. 

When asked about these words Sahl said: 

It means that even if it [the soul] were to bring the sum of all good actions great and small, 
in abundance or just a few, none of this will be accepted from it on its arrival on the Day of 
Resurrection, nor anything from him [the servant]. Compensation ( c adl) here means equiva- 
lence [or like, mathal]. Do you not note His words: Or its compensation in fasts [5:95] — that 
is, its equivalence and reward? 

[ 2 : 55 ] ...and the thunderbolt took you even as you looked on 56 
When asked about this verse Sahl said: 

The thunderbolt ( al-saHqa ) signifies death, and it also signifies every destructive punishment 
that God sends down upon whomever He wills of His servants, which they behold with their 
own eyes, whereby He shows to others among them a lesson and an admonishment. 

[ 2 : 71 ] ...and without blemish ... 57 
When asked about this verse Sahl said: 

This means that there should be no mark on it which blemishes it, nor a patch of colour which 
differs from the colour of the rest of its body. In this there is wisdom from its Maker and a 
lesson for the one who takes heed by it, and grows in certainty because of his faith and his 
profession of God’s oneness. 

[ 2 : 72 ] And when you killed a living soul and disputed thereon... 

That is, you fell into discord concerning it. Why then did you slay them, if you speak the truth? 

[3:18 sF 


55 That is to say that it (prayer) is burdensome to those who lack humility, according to the commentary of Jalal al-DIn 
al-Suyuti and Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli, in Tafsir al-Jalalayn, ed. c Abd al-Qadir al-Arna 3 ut and Ahmad Khalid Shukri 
(Damascus and Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathir, 1998), trans. Feras Hamza (Louisville, KY: Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic 
Thought and Fons Vitae, 2008). 

56 This verse refers to Moses people after they had been reprimanded for worshipping the calf in his absence (2:51-4). They 
then told him they would not believe him until they saw God openly, which is when they witnessed the thunderbolt. 

57 This is among the qualities of the cow that was to be sacrificed by the Children of Israel, as commanded by God through 
Moses. 

58 The relevance of the commentary on the verse introduced here is Tustari’ s explanation that a matter may be addressed 
to a people concerning members of their community, even though what is being referred to may have occurred in the 
past. Likewise, a matter may be addressed to the community when it concerns the Prophet and vice versa. 


21 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Sahl said regarding these words: 

This is a reproach from God, Mighty and Majestic is He, to them [the Jews] with regard to those 
of their forefathers who were murderers of prophets. As you know, those who are addressed 
in this verse had not killed a prophet at the time of the Prophet IS, nor was there at that time 
any other Prophet but him. However, God addressed them with reference to those who came 
before them among their kin, as He addressed the Prophet jj with what was in reality directed 
to his nation [as a whole] with His words: O Prophet! When you [men] divorce women, divorce 
them by their prescribed period [65:1] The same [principle applies] to His words: About what are 
they questioning one another? About the awesome tidings [78:1, 2], [by which is meant], ‘For 
what reason do you question the Prophet M, when he is more knowledgeable concerning that’. 59 
[2:175] ■■■Ah! What boldness [they show] for the Fire! 

When asked about these words, Sahl replied: 

That is [boldness] in issuing legal ruling[s] (fatwa) without sufficient knowledge of the Sunna 
or the divine law ( sharf , and [boldness] in servitude to the practice of the people of the Fire. 
[2:102] ...But they could not thus harm anyone except by God’s permission... 

That is, save that it be in God’s prior knowledge, which precedes the occurrence of the act of 
the one doing it. 

Concerning His words, Exalted is He: 

[3:102] ...Fear God as He should be feared... 

[Sahl said]: 

That is, by the worship He has prescribed for you, and not by that which God merits in His 
essence (ft dhatihi ). 60 

[2:59] ...So we sent upon the transgressors a plague... 

He said: 

the plague being punishment. 

[2:112] Nay, but whoever submits his purpose to God, being virtuous... 

Concerning these words of God, Exalted is He, Sahl said: 

That is, his religion, is as it is said in Surat al-Nisa 3 : Who is fairer in religion than one who sub- 
mits his purpose to God ? [4:125], meaning: ‘Than a person who dedicates ( akhlasa ) his religion 
purely to God’, that is, Islam and its laws. 61 This meaning is reiterated in Sura Luqman: Whoever 
surrenders his purpose to God, and is virtuous [31:22], which means [whoever] devotes himself 
in religion purely to God. 

He was asked about His words, Exalted is He: 

[2:78] ...Who know not the Book, but only [see therein their own] desires... 

He said: 

This means that they rest their hopes in God based upon falsehood, inclining towards the desire 
( hawd ) of their lower selves without following guidance from God. This is referring to the Jews. 62 


59 According to the commentaries, these verses are being addressed to the Quraysh. 

60 Or as He is in Himself’, because that would be beyond the capacity of a human being, just as the Prophet is reported 
to have said at the end of a prayer: ‘I cannot adequately encompass Your praise. You are as You have praised Yourself.’ 
This prayer is reported in a hadith which is listed in many collections, including Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Salat’, and in 
Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul , vol. 2, p. 384. 

61 The fourth form of the verb khalasa here also has the meaning of sincerity, as in the title of Sura 112 (Al-Ikhlas). 

62 Most of the traditions cited by Tabari on this verse state that these were illiterate people among the Jews, perhaps 
because much of this part of Surat al-Baqara relates to the Jews. However, a couple of traditions simply state that they 
were illiterate people. 


22 


2 Al-Baqara 


He was asked about His words: 

[2:87 and 253] ...and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit ... 63 
He replied: 

The Holy (al-Quddus) refers to God, that is, the One who is sanctified above having children, 
partners or a spouse. 

[2:128] ...and of our progeny, a community submissive to You... 

‘A community’ (umma) refers to a group of people, and ‘submissive’ (muslima) means they 
submit to Your commandments and prohibitions, thereby attaining Your good pleasure and 
acceptance. 

He was asked about His words: 

[2:134 and 141] That is a community that has passed away. Theirs is what they have earned... 

He replied: 

That is to say, this was a community that passed away in accordance with God’s prior knowl- 
edge concerning them. 

[2:143] ■■■ a community of the middle [way] (wasatan)... 

That is, they are just. In this way, a believer gives credence to God’s servants in accordance with 
His words, He believes in God, and has faith in the believers [9:61], which means that he affirms 
[the truth of] God and ascribes truth to the believers. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[2:143] ■■■For God is gentle with people, merciful. 

That is, He shows great [lit. intense, shadid] mercy ( rahma ) and kindness ( rafa ) towards them. 
This refers to the gentleness ( rifq ) and clemency ( hilm ) that He shows them due to His knowl- 
edge of their weakness and of the fact that they have no strength before Him, except through 
Him and from Him. 

[2:148] Every person has a direction to which he turns... 

He means by this that God, Exalted is He, turns people of each religion in the direction that 
He wills. 

[2:155] ■ -.Yet give good tidings to those who are patient. 

He [Sahl] said: 

They are those for whom patience (sabr) has become a way of life ( c aysh ), a [source of] rest 
( raha ) and a homeland ( watan ). They find delight in practising patience for the sake of God, 
Exalted is He, in every situation. 

[2:157] They are those on whom [descend] blessings from their Lord, and mercy; it is they who are 
truly guided. 

Sahl said: 

What is implied by blessings ( salawdt ) upon them is the bestowal of mercy ( tarahhum ) upon 
them, that is, a bestowal of mercy from their Lord. The Prophet M said, ‘May God bless the 
family of Abu Awfif, when they brought him charitable donations, by which he meant ‘[May 
God] have mercy on them.’ 64 
He also said: 

Muhammad b. Sawwar told us on the authority of Abu c Amr b. Ala that he said: ‘Salat’ has 
three meanings, one of which is the prescribed prayer with its bowings and prostrations, which 
is referred to when God says: So pray to Your Lord and sacrifice [108:2], that is, grasp your left 
arm with your right hand in prayer, in self-abasement and in awe before God, Exalted is He. This 


63 The Arabic construction here is ruh al-quddus meaning literally spirit of the holy’. 

64 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Zakat’. 


23 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


is also reported from c AlI 4 ®. The second meaning is to show mercy ( tarahhum ) [as discussed 
above], and the third meaning is supplication (duff), as [for example] in the prayer over the 
dead. Indeed, the Prophet $g said: ‘If any of you are invited for a meal, you should [accept the 
invitation] . But if [the one invited] is fasting he should pray’, 65 that is, he should make a sup- 
plication for them to be endowed with blessing. Furthermore, the Prophet M said in a hadith, 
\ . .and may the angels pray over you’, meaning pray for mercy to be bestowed upon you. In this 
[same] hadith the Prophet $g went on to say, ‘And if someone eats at his house, the angels pray 
over him [the host] until eventide’, meaning the angels supplicate for him. 66 

Sahl continued: 

Salat carries two meanings: one is the seeking of forgiveness ( istighfar ), and the other is 
forgiveness itself ( maghfira ). As for the meaning of ‘seeking forgiveness’, it is referred to in 
His words, And pray for them [9:103] , that is, ask forgiveness for them; [and in His words] , to 
[secure] the prayers of the Messenger [9:99], meaning asking for the Messenger’s supplication 
for forgiveness. As for its meaning of ‘forgiveness’, it is referred to in His words, Exalted is He, 
He it is who blesses you [33:43], meaning: ‘He forgives you’, and [again in His words]: as do His 
angels... [33:43], by which is meant: ‘They seek forgiveness for you’. In the same vein are His 
words: Indeed God and His angels bless the Prophet [33:56], which mean: ‘Truly God forgives 
the Prophet, and the angels seek forgiveness for him.’ Then He says, O you who believe, invoke 
blessings on him, and invoke peace on him in a worthy manner [33:56], meaning: ‘Seek forgive- 
ness for him. Also in Surat al-Baqara are His words: Blessings from their Lord [2:157], meaning: 
‘Forgiveness from their Lord.’ 

[2:161] ...Upon them shall be the curse of God... 

This means that their lot is banishment ( tard ) from the mercy of God, and alienation. In this 
manner, every accursed one is banished. 

[2:166] ...and the cords are cut away before them 67 

This refers to the ties by which they were connected to each other in this world. For the sake 
of [these ties] mutual affections were cemented, without obedience to God and His Messenger, 
and without seeking God’s good pleasure. 

[2:186] ...So let them respond to Me... 

He [Sahl] said, 

[Let them respond] through supplication {duff), ...and believe in Me..., — that is, ‘Affirm Me 
as True ( saddaqani ), for I am there whenever someone calls on Me with sincerity ( mukhlisan ), 
without despondency {dyis) or despair (qanat)’. 

[2:197] And take provision, but the best of provisions is mindfulness of God... 68 

He [Sahl] said: 

It [mindfulness of God, taqwd] is the [best travelling] companion ( raftq ) leading to the remem- 
brance ( dhikr ) of God, Exalted is He, in fear ( khawfan ); just as there is no [travelling] provision 
( zdd ) for the lover ( muhibb ) save the Beloved ( mahbub ), and no provision for the possessor of 
mystical knowledge ( c drif) save the Known ( malruf ). 69 


65 Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Nikah’; Tirmidhi, Sunan, ‘Kitab al-Sawrri 

66 Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad (Egypt, n.d.), vol. 3, p. 137. Both these traditions of the Prophet are indications of the importance 
in Muslim culture of both giving and receiving hospitality. All references in the text are to this edition, unless another 
is mentioned. 

67 In its outward meaning this verse refers to those who were leaders and misled their followers in denying God. At the 
Resurrection, they will disown all their followers, denying that they misled them. 

68 This is part of the verse which describes some injunctions concerning the performance of the Hajj. Provision here firstly 
refers to bringing provisions (zad) to suffice for the journey. 

69 Interestingly, Tustari seems here to be alluding to three approaches to, or dispositions in, the mystical way, namely those 
of fear ( makhafa ), love ( mahabba ) and [mystical] knowledge ( mcfrifa ). 


24 


2 Al-Baqara 


[Continuing on from this] Sahl explained that the words, If he is able to make his way there 
[3:97] are an allusion to the provision ( zdd ) and the riding beast ( rdhila ). He then asked, ‘Do you 
know what the provision and riding beast are?’ They replied: ‘No’. So he said, ‘The provision is 
remembrance ( dhikr ) and the riding beast is patience ( sabr ).’ Then he went on to relate how a man 
had accompanied him on the road to Mecca, and for two days had not found anything [to eat], so 
he said, ‘O teacher! I need sustenance!’ to which he [Sahl] replied, ‘Sustenance is God.’ The other 
man then said, ‘One cannot do without sustenance for the body to function.’ To which he replied, 
‘All bodies exist [only] through God, Mighty and Majestic is He.’ Then he recited the following lines 
[in the basit metre]: 

O Beloved, replenish [my longing]! 

May the water of longing pour down upon you from the rain cloud, 

Whose pouring increases my sorrows and anguish. 

An anguish remains in my heart, consuming me, 

Truly as love increases, with it will increase my rapture. 70 

After that, he said, ‘It is the world 71 that severs those who are devoted to God from God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He.’ Finally, he said, ‘The livelihood ( c aysh ) of angels is in obedience (tala); the livelihood of 
the prophets is in knowledge ( Him ) and waiting for relief (intizdr al-faraj ); 72 and the livelihood of the 
veracious ( siddiqun ) is in emulation (iqtidafP As for the rest, their livelihood is in food and drink.’ 
[2:197] ■■■So fear me , 74 O people of inner substance (ulu’l-albab)! 

[Sahl said] that this means: 

‘O people of understanding (fahm)V 75 That is, those who are possessed of sound intellects ( c uqul 
salima). Truly God, Exalted is He, has commanded them to be aware of Him according to 
the capacity of their intellects, by virtue of that which He has specially allotted them, such as: 
the light of guidance by His essence; 76 [their] receptivity to [that light] from Him; His having 
singled them out by depositing something (ma c nd) within them; and His knowledge of them 
prior to their creation. So [in this verse], He reminded them of that bounty He had granted 
to them, and summoned them by this antecedent bounty to recognise a second bounty after 
their pre-eternal gift, which is the reality of gnosis ( malrifa ), and to accept [that] knowledge 
by dedicating their actions to Him. 

It was asked [of him] , ‘What is the meaning and reality of mindfulness of God (taqwa)V He answered: 
Its reality belongs to God, Mighty and Majestic is He, by virtue of the fact that you will be pressed 
on to death while in possession of few good deeds, and likewise [that you will be pressed on to 
the] punishment for your sins. 77 Thus [the one who is mindful of God] knows this and fears 
Him, and does not rely on anything save Him. 


70 Some reference has been made to Gaafar s dissertation in the translation of these verses. 

71 i.e. in this case, concern for physical sustenance. 

72 i.e. from the suffering which they inevitably bear, according to the hadith, ‘Those who suffer the most are the prophets 
and those most like them’ ( al-anbiya ' wal-amthal wal-amthal). See TirmidhI, Sunan ‘Kitab al-Zuhd’; Ibn Maja, Sunan, 
‘Abwab al-fitan*; Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad (Cairo, 1895), vol. 1, pp. 172 (the latter version of this hadith includes the virtuous 
(salihiin) after the prophets), pp. 174, 180; vol. 4, p. 369. This teaching will be discussed by Tustarl again later. 

73 Probably what is meant is emulation of the example of the Prophet. Tustari often uses the term iqtida 3 without specifying 
who is to be emulated. See IT above, pp. liiiff. 

74 The word used is ittaquni, from the same root as taqwa, and therefore could also mean: ‘Be fully aware, wary or mindful 
of Me!’ See above, p. 13, n. 9, regarding the translation of words derived from the root w-q-y. 

75 All the MSS (Z515, f. 18a, F638, f. 10a and F3488, f. 195a) have the plural here ( fuhum ), corresponding to the plural in 
the following c uqul, though the plural would not be idiomatic in English. 

76 Note that earlier Tustarl states that the eye of certainty is a light from the light of the essence of God. See his commentary 
on 2:40 above. 

77 Note that the MSS Z515, f. 18a only has the following: wa kadha khataya bi-asbab al-uquba. 


25 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Someone said to him, ‘Truly, the reasons for peoples mindfulness of God vary.’ He affirmed this and 
added, ‘Just as their deeds vary.’ Abu Bakr [al-Sijzi] then said, ‘I mentioned that it is confirmed in 
the Qur an that the awareness that every man [has of God] is according to his capacity.’ He [Sahl] 
replied, ‘Yes, indeed. God, Exalted is He, has said, So be aware of God as much as you can ; listen 
and obey... [64:16].’ Thus does He direct them to what is within their capability.’ So I [Abu Bakr] 
then said to him, ‘Truly God, Exalted is He, has said, Fear God as He should be feared [3:102]’, to 
which Sahl replied: 

As for our companions, they say that this is addressed to a people distinguished by their eminence, 
because what was demanded of them was not [even] demanded of the prophets (SSI)- And 
as both Abraham and Jacob said to their children: ‘My sons, God has chosen for you the [true] 
religion; see that you do not die save in submission [2:132]. So truly God requires His creatures 
to worship Him according to their [individual] capacities. For those who were told, ‘Fear God 
as He should be feared’, awareness of God ( taqwd ) was demanded of them in the measure of 
their knowledge ( malrifa ) of Him. What is meant here is ‘Fear God as He should be feared’, as 
much as you can. This does not, however, constitute permission to abandon awareness of God. 
[Note that] in the context of Sura Al ‘Imran, the words: See that you do not die save in submission 
[3:102] mean: submitting to God’s command in every condition and consigning [your affairs] to 
Him, while others are directed back to striving ( ijtihad ). So understand the difference between 
the two in this address, for although the wording is the same, the implication differs, the one 
[applicable] to the elect, and the other to the generality of people. 78 

Abu Bakr [al-Sijzi] then related that Sahl said: 

If those who are mindful of God ( muttaqun ) had supplicated against the transgressors, ( musrifun ), 
they [the latter] would have perished, both those who came first and those who come last. How- 
ever God made the mindful of God as a mercy for the oppressors ( zalimun ), that by means of 
them He might save them, and indeed the most noble ( akram ) of creatures before God, Mighty 
and Majestic, are those who are [fully] mindful and aware of Him. As He has said, Truly the 
noblest of you in the sight of God is the one among you who is most mindful of Him! [49:13] So 
whoever hopes for God’s favour ( kardma ), Mighty and Majestic is He, should be mindful of 
Him, for truly it is through mindfulness of God that a person may attain God’s favour and 
admittance into Paradise, abide in His vicinity, and triumph with a tremendous victory. Indeed 
the Prophet IS said, ‘Whoever corrects his inner self [lit. secret, sarira] will find that God puts 
right his public life and whoever fears God in his innermost secret, will find that God draws 
him nearer and brings him close [to Him].’ 79 
[2:201] ...Our Lord, give us good in this world... 

These words refer to knowledge and sincere devotion, ...and good in the Hereafter..., refers to 
His good pleasure ( rida ), as He said: God is well-pleased with them and they are well-pleased 
with Him... [5:119]. 

[2:224] Do not make God’s [name] an excuse in your oaths not to be righteous... 

Sahl was asked concerning this verse, ‘What is this righteousness ( birr)V He replied: ‘This means 
that you do not maintain your family ties [just] because of an oath.’ Then [in this connection] 
someone mentioned to him the verse: It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East 
or West [2:177], and he [Sahl] said: 


78 This is because the first instance of the command that they should die in submission [to God] [2:132] comes in the 
context of Abraham and Jacob addressing their sons and telling them that God has chosen for them the true religion, 
whereas the second instance of the command to die in submission to God [3:102] follows the rigorous command to 
fear God as He should be feared, which is said to be possible only for an elect among the believers, and which, Tustari 
has suggested, was not even demanded of the prophets (i.e. the sons of Abraham and Jacob). 

79 Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musannaf (Riyadh, 1988), vol. 7, pp. 162 and 217. 


26 


2 Al-Baqara 


This means: it is not righteousness that you do nothing other than this; [True] righteousness is 
[that of] the one who believes in God [2:177], to the end of that verse. 80 Do you not notice how 
He says, Do you bid others to righteousness, while you forget [to practise it] yourselves? [2:44], 
which is a reference to Jews who were commanding their foster brothers to obey God, Exalted 
is He, and to follow the Prophet fg, while they themselves did not do that. 

[2:235] ■■■But do not make arrangements with them secretly... 

That is, arrangements of marriage, ...and know that God knows what is within yourselves, so 
be wary of Him . . . , by which is meant that He knew what was hidden within yourselves before 
He created you, namely, every single act 81 done in the way of goodness, that He was to com- 
mand and the performance of which He would aid, and [likewise] every act [you would do], 
which He had forbidden, and from which He would not protect [you]. 82 He abandoned whom 
He willed to his desire, so that the act which He had forbidden would become manifest from 
that person, and He did not grant His protection, out of His justice and decree. The meaning 
of His words, what is within yourselves refers to that which you have not yet done, and within 
yourselves refers to that which you will do. So be wary of Him, that is to say, humbly implore 
Him concerning it, 83 that He should be the one who takes care of your affairs by extending 
His aid and guaranteeing your success in the [realisation] of obedience, and by granting His 
protection from forbidden [acts] through [His] help and support. Do you not take heed of the 
words of TJmar and Ibn Mas c ud? Ac. 

‘O God! If in the Mother of the Book that is with You, 84 we are among those who are wretched 
and deprived, then erase that from [our destiny] and appoint us to be among those of felicity 
who are encompassed by Your mercy. Truly You erase what You will and establish [what You 
will] and the Mother of the Book is with You.’ 

His words: 

[2:204] ■■■Yet he is the most stubborn in altercation . 8S 

That is, [he is] extremely contentious [on the basis of] what is false. Indeed, JAYsha %, narrated 
that the Prophet M said, ‘The most abhorrent of men before God, Exalted is He, are those who 
are stubborn and antagonistic.’ 86 

His words: 

[2:214] ■■■And were so shaken [in spirit ]... 67 


80 2:177 is a long verse which outlines the tenets of Muslim belief as well as other requisite virtues. It reads as follows: It is 
not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East and to the West. True righteousness is [that of] the one who believes 
in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the prophets, and who gives of his substance, however cherished, 
to kinsmen and orphans and the needy and the traveller and beggars, and sets slaves free, and who observes the prayer and 
pays the alms; and those who fulfil their covenant when they have engaged in a covenant, those who endure with fortitude 
misfortune, hardship and peril; these are the ones who are truthful, and these are the ones who are mindful of God. 

81 lit. every act (fi c l) of motion ( haraka ) and stillness ( sukun ). 

82 On this doctrine see above, IC, p. 2, and IT, pp. xxxiii-xxxiv. 

83 i.e. the ‘latent’ acts of goodness and disobedience that are within us. 

84 i.e. what is preordained, before it is even written on the ‘Preserved’ or ‘Well-Guarded Tablet,’ on which see above IC, p. 5, 
n. 22. The ‘Mother of the Book’ ( umm al-kitab ) appears in around forty hadiths and is interpreted in a number of ways. 
Most often it denotes the heavenly prototype of the Qur'an, but it is also, as here, identified with the Preserved Tablet 
upon which the destiny of all creatures has been inscribed. In this meaning, it is found in the Qur'an: God effaces what 
He will and confirms [what He will]. With Him is the Mother of the Book [13:39]. The term ‘Mother of the Book’ is also 
one of the many names given to Surat al-Fatiha, on account of the fact that it is said to contain the whole Qur'an. See 
E. Geoffroy and F. Daftary, ‘Umm al-kitab’, El 2 , vol. x, p. 854. 

85 According to Tafsir al-Jalalayn this refers to al-Akhnas b. Shariq, while Tabari cites this as one view along with others 
which consider that the verse concerns the hypocrites more generally. 

86 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Tafsir’. 

87 These words occur in the middle of a verse which describes a people (according to the commentaries, the early Muslim 
community in Mecca), who were suffering all sorts of trials and hardships. 


27 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


That is, their willing was through Him, they were fearful because of Him, and were wary of 
God’s ruse ( makr ), Mighty and Majestic is He; ...that the Messenger and those who believed 
with him said, ‘ When will God’s help come?’ Ah, but surely God’s help is nigh. 

Sahl was asked concerning these words, ‘Did they ask this because they found that help slow in 
arriving?’ He replied: 

No, but when they lost hope in their own devising ( tadbir ) they said, ‘When will God’s help 
come? ’Hence, when God, Exalted is He, saw that they had given up on their own power ( hawl ), 
strength ( quwwa ) and devising (tadbir), and saw their display of neediness for Him, and [their 
admission that] they had no means without Him, He responded to them with His words, Ah, 
but surely God’s help is nigh. 

Sahl further said: 

Affliction (bald’) and well-being (dfiya) are from God, Mighty and Majestic is He. The com- 
mand and prohibition are from Him; protection and the granting of success are from Him; 
and reward and punishment are from Him. However, actions are attributed (mansuba) to the 
children of Adam, so whoever performs a good action must express gratitude to merit thereby 
an increase [in goodness]; and whoever performs a wicked act must seek forgiveness, so that 
he thereby merits forgiveness. Affliction from God is of two kinds: an affliction of mercy and 
an affliction of punishment. An affliction of mercy leads the afflicted person to show his utter 
need (iftiqar) for God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and leads him to the abandonment of devis- 
ing (tadbir). However, an affliction of punishment leads the afflicted person [to rely] on his 
own choice (ikhtiydr) and devising. 

Sahl was then asked, ‘Which is more difficult, patience (sabr) in [a state of] well-being or patience 
during adversity?’ He replied: 

Asking for safety (saldma) in times of security is more difficult than asking for safety in [a 
state of] fear. 

[On the same subject] Sahl said regarding His words, And if anyone believes in God, [God] guides 
his heart [aright] [64:11], ‘[Whoever] believes in God and that his affliction comes from God, will 
find his heart guided by God to the expectation of relief (intizdr al-faraj) from Him’. 

His words: 

[5:2] ...Help one another to righteousness and mindfulness of God... 

That is, to the performance of the obligatory acts, for righteousness (birr) is faith (imdn), and the 
performance of obligatory acts is a branch (fad ) of faith. Mindfulness of God (taqwd) signifies 
the Sunna, and an obligatory act is not complete without the Sunna. He prohibited helping one 
another to sin (ithm) — which [is tantamount to] disbelief (kufr) and hypocrisy (nifdq) — and 
enmity, which [signifies] innovation (bid’a) and controversy (khisdm). Both the aforementioned 
are [derisive] play (la c bdn), and they have been forbidden from derisive play. 88 They have also 
been commanded to do [acts of] righteousness, which include both the obligatory acts and 
those which are Sunna, and to be steadfast in sincerely devoting themselves to God in all of this. 
[Concerning] His words: 

[2:246] Have you not seen the chiefs of the Children of Israel... 

Sahl was asked who the chiefs were. He replied: 

He [God] means by this the leaders. Take note of the saying of the Messenger of God U when 
he heard a man after the Battle of Badr say, ‘On the Day of Badr we only killed bald, old men’, 
to which the Messenger of God M replied, ‘They are the chiefs of Quraysh’, meaning the nota- 
bles and leaders. 89 


88 Several verses castigate the hypocrites and disbelievers for their derisive play ( la c b ) and diversion ( lahw ); for example: 
5:57 and 58; 6:32,70 and 91. 

89 Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usiil, vol. 1, p. 333. 


28 


2 Al-Baqara 


Sahl was asked about His words: 

[2:255] God, There is no god except Him, the Living, the Eternal Sustainer... 

He replied: 

This is the mightiest (cfzam) verse in God’s Book, Exalted is He. Within it is God’s Greatest 
Name, and it is written across the sky in green light in one line from East to West. This is how 
I saw it written on the Night of Great Merit ( Laylat al-Qadr ) 90 in "Abbadan: There is no god 
except Him, the Living, the Eternal Sustainer. 

The Living, the Eternal Sustainer is the One who oversees everything pertaining to His creatures: 
their life spans, their actions, and their provision. He is the One who requites goodness ( ihsdn ) 
with goodness, and misdeeds with forgiveness ( ghufran ), but He requites hypocrisy, disbelief 
and innovation with punishment. Whoever pronounces the saying: ‘There is no god except 
God’ has made a pact with God, so it is unlawful for him, after making a pact with God, to 
disobey Him in any of His commandments or prohibitions, in secret or public, or to support 
His enemy, or to show enmity towards a friend of His. 

...No slumber can seize Him, nor sleep... Slumber ( sina ) here means sleepiness. 

He [Sahl] also said: 

Slumber is when the heart (qalb) is mingled with sleep. 

[2:257] God is the protector of the believers... 

Concerning these words Sahl said: 

That is, [He protects them with] the protection of [His] good pleasure ( rida ). He is their pro- 
tector due to the former guidance He granted them, and His knowledge concerning them, of 
their affirmation of His oneness. This is due to His knowledge that they have freed themselves 
from every cause except their Creator. 91 Hence they were taken out of the darkness into the 
light, and from disbelief, error, disobedience and innovation to faith, which is the light that 
God, Mighty and Majestic is He, established in their hearts. This is the light of the insight of 
certainty (nur basirat al-yaqin) by which they seek inner perception of the divine oneness 
( tawhid ), and obedience to Him in that which He has commanded and forbidden. For anyone 
to whom God gives no light, there is no light! [24:40] 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[2:257] And the disbelievers — their protectors are false deities... 

That is, Satan. 

Sahl said: 

The head of all devils is the evil-inciting self (nafs ammara bi’l-su ’), for Satan cannot overpower 
man except through the desire ( hawd ) of his lower self. So if he [Satan] senses something that 
it desires, he casts temptation at it. 

[2:260] And when Abraham said, ‘My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead’... 

[Sahl] was asked whether or not Abraham was in doubt concerning his faith, and was therefore 
asking his Lord to show him a sign or miracle in order to restore his faith. He replied: 

His question was not out of doubt; he was merely asking for an increase in certainty ( ziyddat 
al-yaqin) to the faith he already had. Thus he asked for an unveiling of the cover of visual 
beholding with his physical eyes, so that by the light of certainty, his own certainty regarding 
God’s omnipotence might be increased, and [his certainty] regarding His creative [power] might 


90 Laylat al-Qadr, variously translated as the ‘Night of Glory, ‘Night of Power’ ‘Night of Ordainment’, and here, ‘Night 
of Great Merit’, is mentioned in 97:1 as being the night during the holy month of Ramadan in which the Qur'an was 
revealed in its entirety. Each year, Laylat al-Qadr is said to fall on an odd night during the last part of Ramadan, often 
the 27 th night. 

91 Both editions and MSS Z515, f. 20b and F3488, f. 197b have khalif here rather than khaliq, though it is difficult to under- 
stand what could be meant by khalif in this context. There are no visible diacritics in F638, f. 11b. 


29 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


be consolidated. Do you not notice how when He asked [him], ‘Why, do you not believe?’ he 
replied ‘Yes! If he had been in doubt he would not have said ‘Yes’. Furthermore, if God was aware 
of any doubt in him and had he given Him the answer ‘Yes’, [attempting to] conceal his doubt, 
God would definitely have disclosed that, Exalted is He, as such things cannot be concealed 
from Him. Therefore, this confirms that the request for [his hearts] reassurance ( tuma’nlna ) 
signified a request for an increase in his certainty. 92 
Then it was asked, ‘Surely the people of the “Table Spread” 93 sought profound peace of mind, through 
the sending down of the feast, and their [request] was out of doubt. So how does this correspond?’ 
He replied: 

Abraham 8SS made it known that he was a believer, and he only asked for profound peace 
of mind in addition to faith in order to receive greater [certainty]. The people of the Table 
Spread, on the other hand, made it known that they would believe only after they had found 
calm reassurance in their hearts. As He said: and that our hearts may be reassured, and that 
we may know that you have spoken to us truthfully [5:113]. Thus they made it known that their 
knowledge of his [Jesus’] truthfulness, after they had been reassured by witnessing the feast, 
was to be the starting point of their faith. 

Abu Bakr [al-Sijzi] said: I heard him say on another occasion: 

...But so that my heart may be reassured... [2:260] — that is, ‘I do not feel secure against one of 
Your enemies challenging me if I should say, My Lord is He who gives life and death [2:258], and 
then [one of them] should ask, “Did you see Him give life and death?” In this way my heart 
would be at ease in being able to answer “Yes” to him, once I had witnessed that.’ This is why 
the Prophet JS said: ‘Hearing about something is not the same as seeing it.’ 

Sahl also said: 

[Abraham’s request] might also have another meaning: he might have asked God to show him 
the reviving of the dead so that he could feel sure that he had [truly] been chosen as the friend 
(al- Khalil). 94 
Sahl then said: 

Another aspect [of meaning] is the following: ‘What I have requested of You, I have no right 
to, save [for] that which You will realise for me’ — and this is the position of the elect of His 
creation — ‘So my request for You to show me the reviving of the dead was in order to put my 
own heart at rest.’ This was because he was called the ‘intimate friend’ ( al-Khalil ) even in the 
‘Time of Ignorance’ ( Jdhiliyya ). 95 And as we said, his words ‘that my heart may be reassured’ 
mean ‘[that it maybe reassured] of my friendship [with You]. This, because I know that You 
give life and death’. 

Sahl was asked: ‘If the servant reaches the face-to-face encounter of direct vision ( kifdh al-iyan ), 
what signs of this will be manifest?’ He replied: 

He [the servant] triumphs by repelling Satan, and this is because the lower self is extremely 
weak; 96 there is no way for him, when it comes to [dealing with] the lower self and Satan, and 


92 The words tumd’mna and itmv'nan have the meaning of a calmness and tranquillity that is associated with a deep sense 
of confidence, reassurance, trust and, as can be seen in this context, a level of certainty. 

93 This is an allusion to Surat al-Ma'ida [5:112-5], which relates how Jesus’ disciples asked if God would send a feast (lit. a 
table spread) down from heaven from which they could eat, so that this might act as a sign for them to know that what 
he was telling them was the truth. Jesus accordingly prayed to God to send down the feast. God agreed to do so, but 
warned that anyone who disbelieved after that would be punished. 

94 Abraham is known by the honorary title ‘Friend of God’ ( Khalil Allah) on the basis the words of 4:125, . . .and God took 
Abraham for a friend. 

95 i.e. before the coming of Muhammad and the revelation of the Qur'an in which God’s taking Abraham as a friend is 
mentioned. 

96 This is according to the MSS Z515, f. 21b, F638, f. 12a and F3488, f. 198a, which have bi-ghayat al-hawan, as opposed to 
ft mu c ayanat al-hawan as in the published edition. 


30 


2 Al-Baqara 


cutting them both off, 97 save the protection of the All-Merciful. 

He [Sahl] then recited a poem [in wdfir metre]: 

The abundant sufficiency 98 of direct encounter [with God] [attained] through my good 
opinion of Him 99 

Is like the spider’s web covering the cave’s entrance 100 
Good opinion has traversed every veil, 

Good opinion has traversed beyond the fire’s light, 101 
The signs of the one brought near are clear. 

Near or far it is the same to the night voyager, 102 
For the one who has beheld God directly, 

There is no sleep to settle him until day. 

Three times did God ask of them: 

‘Is there anyone to ask for the kindness of the Maker?’ 

When did the lapping [of a dog] defile an ocean of love? 

So ignore the barking of that wretched creature at my porch 
O ego along with Satan! Be off! 

And likewise the falsity of incitement and trouble. 

In his saying, 103 ‘The abundant sufficiency of direct encounter ( kifah ) [with God] [attained] 
through my good opinion of Him’, it is as if he is alluding to His words: Is it not sufficient that 
your Lord is witness to all things? [41:53], to which the Messenger of God U replied, ‘Yes it is, O 
Lord.’ So it was, when the following verse was sent down: Is not God the fairest of all judges? 
[95:8], to which the Messenger of God also replied, ‘Yes, O Lord.’ And from the way they 
understand the QuLan [this means]: Is it not sufficient that your Lord , O Muhammad, has 
supported you in this world against your enemies through killing and defeating [them], and 
in the next life, by granting you the Praiseworthy Station (maqam mahmud) and the right 
to intercession, and in Paradise by granting you the encounter and the visitation ( ziyara )? 104 
His saying, ‘Like the spider’s web covering the entrance of a cave’, [is an allusion to] the cave of 
mystics ( c arifun ) [which is] the[ir] innermost secret ( sirr ), and the[ir] beholding ( ittilaf of the 
Lord of the Worlds, when they reach the station of face-to-face encounter ( maqam al-kifah), that 
is, the immediate vision of direct witnessing (Hydn al-iyan ) beyond what has been [verbally] 

97 In order to make sense of this passage, it was necessary to ignore the words c an al-shaytan , which follow bi-azlihima , 
and which are found in all the MSS and the published edition. 

98 Kifayat, sing, kifaya derived from the verbal root k-f-y means to be sufficient, but by extension can mean to suffice for 
protection, to guard or protect. Thus Tustari compares it in the next line to the spiders web that protected the Prophet 
when he was hiding in the cave. 

99 The expression husn al-zann is usually rendered in English as good opinion, which is perhaps adequate when it involves 
relations between human beings. However, husn al-zann towards God involves an unequivocal, wholehearted trust in 
His goodness. For a discussion of Tustari’ s application of this term, see IT, pp. liiffi 

100 This is an allusion to the time when the Prophet was fleeing Mecca, accompanied by Abu Bakr, pursued by a party of 
the Quraysh who were intent on killing him. The two of them hid in a cave, and when their pursuers came by the cave 
and were about to enter it, they found a spiders web over the cave’s entrance (also a dove’s nest, right next to the cave 
entrance), so they assumed that no one could be inside the cave and passed by without discovering its occupants. See 
Martin Lings, Muhammad (Cambridge, 2005), p. 119. 

101 This is an allusion to the stations of the prophets Abraham and Moses, as will be seen in the commentary on the poem 
which follows. 

102 Here is another allusion to the MFraj, the miraculous Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet, as will also become 
clear from the commentary on the poem. For references on the MFraj, see above IC, p. 4, n. 15. 

103 If the poem was composed by Tustari, then the lengthy commentary that follows it may be by his disciple and the main 
source of the Tafsir, Abu Bakr al-Sijzi. However, if the poem was by some other anonymous author, then the commentary 
might be by Tustari. 

104 i.e. the visitation of God, His Throne. The ‘Laudable or Praiseworthy Station’ is, according to tradition, among the special 
blessings promised to Muhammad in the Hereafter. It is said to be at the right hand of the Throne in Paradise. In the 
Qur’an it is mentioned in 17:79. 


31 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


elucidated ( bayan ). 105 Then there is nothing between the servant and God except the veil of 
servanthood, due to his contemplation ( nazar ) of the attributes of lordliness ( rububiyya ), ipseity 
( huwiyya ), divinity ( ildhiyya ), and [God’s being] Self-Sufficing and Besought of all, to eternity 
( samadiyya ila’l-sarmadiyya ), without any obstacle or veil. One similitude among many might 
be that of a spider’s web when it encompasses his heart ( qalb ), his innermost secret ( sirr ) r and n 
his heart’s core (fu'ad ), 106 through the grace of lordship (lutf al-rububiyya) and complete com- 
passion ( kamal al-shafaqa), such that there is no veil between him and God, Exalted is He. 107 
Just as through the spider’s web, which covered the entrance to the cave of the Messenger of 
God M, God turned away all the enemies among the leaders of the Quraysh who were being 
directed by Iblis against him, so in the case of the people of gnosis, when they reach the sta- 
tion of direct witnessing (Hydn) beyond elucidation (bayan), the provocations of Satan and the 
sultan of the lower self are cut off and repelled, and their scheming becomes ineffectual, as is 
expounded in His words, Surely the plotting of Satan is ever feeble [4:76], meaning, that it had 
become ineffectual against them, just as He also said, Truly over My servants you [Satan] shall 
have no warrant... [15:42]. This is because, if the servant traverses all veils through his good 
opinion [of God], such that there remains no veil between him and God, thereafter the lower 
self, Satan and the world can have no access to his heart and mind by means of provocation. 
Thus did the Prophet M say, ‘Yesterday I saw an amazing thing; a servant between whom and 
God there was a veil, but then when his good opinion of God appeared, He drew him in from 
behind the veil’. 

Regarding his saying [in the poem] , ‘Good opinion has traversed beyond the light of fire’, 108 it is as 
if this is alluding to the honour of following the Messenger Jj, due to his being given preference 
[by God] over the Friend of God [Abraham] and the Interlocutor of God [Moses], 109 for in the 
station of perceiving fire and light prophets and saints are [accorded] different ranks ( maqamdt ). 
The Friend [of God] saw the fire and it became for him a source of coolness and safety [21:69] . 110 
The Interlocutor [of God] saw the fire as light as is expounded in His words, Wait, I see afire in 
the distance [20:10; 28:29]. However, this [fire] was in origin light, as [is indicated] by His words, 
Blessed is he who is in the fire [27:8], which refer to Moses surrounded by [lit. in the midst of] 
light. But then [Moses] became preoccupied with the light, so God reprimanded him saying, 
‘Do not preoccupy yourself with the light, for truly I am the Illuminator of light’, as expounded 
in His words, Indeed, I am your Lord. So take off your sandals [20:12]. However, when it came 


105 The word bayan is derived from the root b-y-n, meaning to become separate (as in the preposition bayn , ‘between ) or, 
by extension, to become clear by being distinct. Lane lists numerous meanings for bayan , including: ‘the means by which 
one makes a thing [distinct] apparent, manifest, evident clear or perspicuous’, which may be either a circumstantial or 
verbal indication, and hence it can mean ‘speech’, or ‘eloquent speech’. In this context, we may understand Tustarl to be 
using it to indicate that the mystic is taken beyond what he has come to know indirectly, for example through verbal 
communication, to experience it in a direct and unmediated way. 

106 The waw has been added on the basis of Z515, f. 22a, F638, f. 11b and F3488, f. 198b. 

107 That is, the innermost secret of the mystic is at this moment enclosed and protected in its being completely with God. 

108 This is an allusion to Moses’ experience of hearing God speak from the burning bush, related in 20:10-66, 27:7-9 and 
28:31-5. 

109 While in Islamic tradition, Abraham has the honorific title of ‘Friend of God’ ( Khalil Allah), Moses has the title of 
‘Interlocutor of God’ ( Kallm Allah), which is derived from the Qur 3 anic words, ‘ kallama ’ Llahu Musa takllman [4:164], 
which is usually translated as: ‘God spoke to Moses directly’. 

110 A reference to the story of Abraham, when his people (according to tradition, Nimrod and his followers) commanded 
that he should be thrown into a fire as a punishment for his destroying their idols, related in Surat al-Anbiya 3 (21:51-70). 
God commanded the fire Be coolness and safety for Abraham (21:69). Some traditions concerning this verse relate that 
Abraham sat a while in the midst of the fire, where there appeared a garden. See for example Ahmad b. Muhammad al- 
ThaTabl, Qisas al-anbiya J al-musamma bil-Arcfis al-majalis (Cairo, n.d.), p. 85; English trans. by William M. Brinner as 
Ara J is al-majalis ft qisas al-anbiya ' or: Lives of the Prophets as recounted by Abu Ishaq Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Ibrahim 
al-Thadabi (Leiden and Boston, 2002), p. 133, who relates one such tradition from Suddi. The same tradition is cited in 
Maybudi’s Kashf al-asrar, vol. 6, pp. 267-8. The motif of the garden in the midst of a fire became a favourite motif in 
Persian mystic poetry. 


32 


2 Al-Baqara 


to the Beloved [of God] [Muhammad ^], m God showed him the fire and the light, and took 
him beyond the veil of fire and light. Then He brought him near without fire or light until he 
saw in the closest proximity the Illuminator of lights, as is expounded in His words, The heart 
did not deny what he saw [53:11]. 112 Thus did He elevate [His] Beloved [Muhammad] above 
the station of [His] Friend [Abraham] and [His] Interlocutor [Moses], and the stations of all 
of the prophets who were brought nigh, until he was addressed by God without the means of 
any revelation ( wahy ) or interpreter ( tarjuman ), as is expounded in His words, Whereat, He 
revealed to His servant what He revealed [53:10], meaning, ‘The Beloved communicated with 
the beloved in secret, and taught him and honoured him by granting him the Opening of the 
Book ( al-Fatiha ) and the closing verses of Surat al-Baqara. 113 

When he says [in the poem] , ‘The signs of the one brought near are clear’, he means that all the 
prophets and angels have proximity [with God], but Muhammad M is the closest in proximity 
( aqrab ), following the form of afal 114 — one says qarib meaning close and aqrab meaning closer 
or closest. Now the one who is close (qarib) [to God] has access to 115 understanding (fahm ), 
conjecture ( wahm ) and interpretation ( tafsir ). But the one who is closest (aqrab) is beyond 
understanding, conjecture and interpretation, and what is beyond that cannot be contained 
by expression (Hbdra) or allusion (ishdra). Thus it was that Moses, when he heard the call of 
unicity (wahdaniyya) from God, on the night of the fire, said, ‘O God! Are You near that I 
may whisper to You, or far away that I should call out to You?’ 116 Then He [God] called out to 
Kalim from a place that was both near and far, telling him that He was near. This, however, was 
not how the Messenger was described when [God] brought him near, such that He greeted 
him saying, ‘Peace be upon you!’ Furthermore, God, Exalted is He, praised his nation when 
He said, And the foremost, the foremost: •$> they are the ones brought near [to God]’ [56:10, 11]. 
He did not say ‘they were near’ (qaribun) [but they were ‘brought near’ ( muqarrabun )] . Thus 
the words [of the poem,] ‘The signs of the one brought near are clear’ refers to this nation. 117 
The one who is near experiences bounty and honour from God, but the one who is far away 
experiences torment and punishment from Him. The one who is far away experiences from 
God veiling and severance [from Him] , but the one who is brought near experiences from God 
the encounter [with Him] and [His] visitation (ziydra). 

As to his saying [in the poem], ‘For the one who has beheld God directly [there is no sleep to 
settle him until the day]’, [he is referring to] a sign of the people of longing (mushtdqun), for 
they can enjoy neither sleep nor rest, by day or at night. Among those who were characterised 
by this trait are Suhayb and Bilal. Bilal was one of the people of longing, and so was Suhayb, for 


111 Just as the prophets Abraham and Moses have their honorific titles ( Khalil Allah and Kalim Allah ) so the Prophet 
Muhammad came to be known as Habib Allah, the ‘Beloved of God’. 

112 This is another allusion to the Mi Q raj, or Night Journey and Ascension of the Prophet Muhammad. See above, IC, p. 4, 
n. 15. 

113 The importance of Surat al-Fatiha is evident because it is recited in every rak c a of the canonical prayer (salat), and 
indeed the prayer is not acceptable without its recitation. But there are also hadiths attesting to its importance, such as 
those that are listed in the Sahih of Bukhari, ‘Kitab al-TafsIr’, in which the honorifics ‘Mother of the Book’ and ‘Seven 
Oft-repeated Verses’ are given for Surat al-Fatiha. Other hadiths mention the importance of reciting both al-Fatiha 
and the two last verses of Surat al-Baqara, such as one narrated on the authority of Ibn c Abbas, and listed in the Sahih 
of Muslim, ‘Kitab al-Salat’, which relates that an angel greeted the Prophet and gave him the message, ‘Rejoice in two 
lights given to you which have not been given to any prophet before you: Fatihat al- Kitab and the concluding verses of 
Surat al-Baqara. You will never recite any letter from them for which you will not be given a reward.’ Another tradition 
narrated on the authority of Ibn Mas c ud states that if anyone recites the last two verses of Surat al-Baqara at night that 
will suffice him. The latter is also listed in the Sahih of Muslim, ‘Kitab al-Salat’, as well as in the Sahih of Bukhari, ‘Kitab 
al- Tafsir’. 

114 That is, the form of the adjective that makes it comparative, or in this case superlative. 

115 lit. ‘enters into’ ( yadkhulu ). 

116 The ‘call of Unicity’ is a reference to the words spoken to Moses from the burning bush: Verily I am God, there is no God 
but Me (20:14, 27:9 and 29:30). 

117 i.e. the nation of Muhammad. 


33 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


neither of them could sleep or find rest. Indeed it was narrated that a woman who had bought 
Suhayb [as a slave] saw him in this condition and said, ‘I will not be satisfied until you sleep at 
night, for you are becoming so weak that you are not in a condition to perform the tasks you 
do for me.’ Thereupon Suhayb wept and said, ‘Whenever Suhayb thinks of the Fire, sleep flees 
from him, and when he thinks of Paradise, he is seized with longing, and when he remembers 
God his longing ( shawq ) is perpetuated’. 

[When] he says [in the poem], ‘Three times did God ask them “Is there ( hal).. A”, [the word] 
hal is an interrogative particle. Verily God, Mighty and Majestic is He, lifts the veil every night 
and says, ‘Is there (hal) anyone asking, so that I may grant him his request? Is there (hal) anyone 
seeking forgiveness, so that I may forgive him? Is there (hal) anyone supplicating, so that I may 
respond to his supplication?’ 118 However, if it is the Night of Great Merit (Laylat al-Qadr), God 
lifts the first condition and says, ‘I have forgiven you even though you didn’t seek forgiveness. 
I have granted [it] to you even though you didn’t ask [it] of Me, and I have responded to you 
before you even supplicated to Me.’ 119 This is the height of generosity (karam). 

His saying [in the poem], ‘When did the lapping [of a dog] ever defile an ocean of love?’ is an 
allusion to the lapping of a dog in a vessel which [according to the divine law (sharfa.)] then 
requires cleaning seven, or three, times [with water] , depending on which of the different word- 
ings of the sayings transmitted from the Prophet JS are followed. However what if a thousand 
thousand [i.e. a million] dogs lapped [up water] from an ocean? There is no dispute within 
the community that in such a case the sea would not be defiled. So [it is] with the whisperings 
of Satan and his lapping in the hearts of the mystics and the lovers, for how can this cause 
defilement in the ocean of love (bahr al-widad), when each time he laps there, a wave comes 
and washes over it. 

Regarding his saying, ‘So ignore the barking of a wretched creature at my porch’, he means: 
‘Leave Iblls in his wretchedness, yelling at the door of this world with all his different kinds of 
incitement (wasdwis), for he does not harm me.’ As [God] says, when a visitation from Satan 
touches them they remember. . . [7:201] His oneness in accordance with His words, And when 
you mention your Lord alone in the Qur'an, they turn their backs in aversion [17:46] . His saying: 
‘Be off!’ means, ‘Get far away from me!’ ‘Be off!’ is said to dogs and signifies total expulsion and 
banishment. In this way did He punish them [the inhabitants of Hell] in the final punishment 
that He gave them. Thus He said, Begone into it! And do not speak to me!’ [23:108]. 120 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[2:238] Maintain the prayers... 

That is, ‘Persist in upholding them’. However His words, And establish prayer and pay the alms. 
[24:56], have two aspects, one of which is establishing prayer without the affirmation [of faith], 
just as when He said in Sura Banfa, 121 if they repent, [9:5] meaning, from idolatry (shirk), and 
establish regular prayers’ [9:5], that is, committing themselves to prayer and almsgiving, then let 
them be. In this regard, He also said: Yet if they repent, establish prayer, and pay the obligatory 
alms, then they are your brothers in religion [9:11] [and comrades]. 122 There is something similar 


118 Reference is being made here to a hadlth listed in the Sahih of Bukhari in the ‘Kitab al-Salat’, and in the Sahih of Muslim, 
‘Kitab al-Salat’. The hadlth, in a version narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayra, reads as follows: ‘When half of the 
night or two thirds of it are over, God, Blessed and Exalted is He, descends to the lowest heaven and asks: “Is there any 
beggar to whom something might be given? Is there any supplicant that he might be answered? Is there anyone seeking 
forgiveness that he might be forgiven?” [And God continues asking this] till it is daybreak.’ In other versions of this 
hadlth God’s question begins with ‘Who is there ( man)...V 

119 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Mutahajjid’, ‘Kitab al-Da c wat’, and ‘Kitab al-Tawhid’; Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 2, p. 433, vol. 
4, pp. 81, 217, 218. 

120 According to the commentaries, ‘it’ here refers to the Hellfire. 

121 Sura Bara 3 a is otherwise known as Surat al-Tawba (or Repentance). 

122 Wa mawallkum is absent from the MSS. 


34 


2 Al-Baqara 


to this in Surat al-Sajda. 123 The second aspect of establishing [the prayers] ( iqama ) is referred to 
when He says in Surat al-Mujadala, Then establish the prayer andpay the obligatory alms [58:13], 
as in Surat al-Muzzammil [73:20], 124 and again with His words in Surat al-Ma’ida, 125 [believers 
who] establish the prayer [5:55], meaning that they fulfil it [that duty] completely. 

[2:238] . . . especially the middle prayer . . . 126 

[Sahl] was asked about these words, and the reason why [the middle prayer] is singled out. He replied: 
It is singled out due to a particular characteristic it possesses, even though it is not apart from 
the obligatory prayers as a whole, in the same way that Gabriel and others were singled out for 
mention among the host of the angels, due to a certain particularity. 

He continued: 

There is another reason, namely, that the times of the rest of the prayers are known by both 
the knowledgeable and the ignorant, because their signs are obvious. 127 However, the time for 
the Asr prayer is less clear. Thus by mentioning [this prayer] in particular, He urged people to 
take care to observe it at its correct time. 

His words [that follow in the same verse]: 

...And stand before God in submission 

That is, ‘Stand before God in prayer in a state of obedience, for many a worshipper is disobedi- 
ent, such as the hypocrite and his like. The Prophet H was asked, ‘Which prayer is the best?’ He 
replied, ‘The longest in devotion ( qunut ), that is, the prayer [for which] one stands the longest 
( tul al-qiyam) } la And Zayd b. Arqam 4 ® said that being devout (qunut) is silence, for we used 
to speak during the prayer until God, Exalted is He, sent down the words, And stand before God 
in submission [2:238], after which we desisted from speaking [during prayer]. Muhammad b. 
Sawwar said, ‘The qunut is the witr , 129 which was called a (qunut) because of the supplication 
( du c a 7 ) which is offered in it whilst standing, aside from the recitation of Qur an.’ This is a kind 
of magnifying (ta c zim) [of God] through supplication. 

[2:268] Satan promises you poverty and enjoins you to indecency... 

He was asked about these words and replied, ‘[He, Satan, does this] so that they should take some- 
thing which is not lawfully theirs, and deposit it in other than its proper place.’ 130 

[2:269] ■■■And he who is given wisdom has been given much good. 

He was asked about these words and he said: 

Abu Sa id al-Khudrl 4 ® narrated from the Prophet jl that he said: ‘The Qur an is God’s wisdom 
(hikma) among His servants. Whoever learns the Qur an and acts according to it, it is as if 
prophethood were incorporated within him, except that he does not receive revelation. He is 
called to account in the same way as the prophets except in the matter of conveying the message.’ 131 
And Muhammad b. Sawwar reported to me from c Aqil, from Ibn al-Musayyab, on the author- 
ity of Abu Hurayra 4 ® that he stated that the Prophet M said, ‘The Qur an is wisdom, and 


123 There is no obvious verse with this meaning in Surat al-Sajda. 

124 The same words are also to be found in Surat al-Hajj [22:78]. 

125 Corrected by the editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya from al-Baqara. 

126 A term that is used for the c Asr prayer, the time for which is between the middle of the afternoon and sunset. 

127 For example, it is easy to see the time of the suns rising and setting, and the moment when it is at its zenith. 

128 Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab Salat al-musafirm wa-qasriha ; Ibn Maja, ‘Kitab al-Salat’. 

129 The witr is the prayer cycle ( rak c a ) which makes the sum of supererogatory prayers an odd number. It is the late-night 
prayer prescribed by the Prophet for after the c Isha J prayers, and is usually prayed silently. 

130 That is, Satan is trying to dissuade them from the almsgiving as prescribed in the previous verse [2:267]. The placing 
or depositing of something (probably wealth) in other than its proper place may mean avoiding giving it to those who 
have a right to it. 

131 Ibn Abi Hatim, : Ilal al-hadith (Beirut, 1985), vol. 2, p. 65. 


35 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


whoever learns the Qur'an in his youth, it mingles with his flesh and blood. 132 And surely the 
Fire cannot touch a heart which contains the Qur'an, nor a body which avoids that which it 
prohibits ( maharim ), and keeps to what it permits ( haled ), believes in that which is clear [in 
it] ( muhkam ), refrains from judgement in that which is ambiguous [in it] ( mutashabih ), and 
does not make innovations regarding it.’ 133 Mujahid and Tawus said, ‘Wisdom is the Qur'an, 
as He says in Surat al-Nahl, Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom [16:125], meaning the 
Qur'an. Hasan said, ‘Wisdom is the understanding of the Qur'an, and wisdom is prophethood, 
as He says in Surat Sad, and gave him wisdom [38:20], meaning prophethood ( nubuwwa ). And 
God said [concerning] David $SS, And God gave him kingship and wisdom [2:251] meaning 
prophethood, along with the Book. 134 

Qatada said, ‘Wisdom is understanding the religion of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and 
following the Messenger of God U’; Suddi said: ‘Wisdom is prophethood’; Zayd b. Aslam said, 
‘Wisdom is the intellect ( c aql )’; while Rabi b. Anas said, ‘Wisdom is the fear of God, Exalted is 
He’. Ibn TJmar said, ‘Wisdom is [to be found in] three things: a clear verse (dya muhkama), ns 
the Sunna put into practice and a tongue which is articulate with the Qur'an.’ 

Abu Bakr stated that Sahl [himself] said, ‘Wisdom is the integration of the sciences, and its origin is 
the Sunna. God, Exalted is He, has said: And recite what is rehearsed to you in your houses of the 
revelations of God and His wisdom [33:34]. The revelations are that which is obligatory [according to 
the religious law] and the wisdom ( hikma ) is that which is Sunna.’ Sahl meant by this that the Arabs 
say that you restrain a man when you prevent him from falling into harm or leaving the truth. 136 
[He was asked the meaning] of His words, wisdom that is far-reaching (baligha) [54:5] . He replied: 
It means perfect and complete ( tamma ), as in His saying. We gave him [power of ] judgement 
(hikma) and knowledge [21:74] > 137 for it [wisdom] at that time was r perfect and complete 1138 such 
that it reached those who were worthy of it without reaching others. 139 In every situation they 
speak according to it. They resort to its rulings and reveal its meanings. 

It has also been said, ‘Keep close to the wise, for certainly God revives dead hearts with wisdom 
just as He revives the barren land with a downpour of rain.’ 

Then he said: 

The capital {rat's al-mal) of wisdom consists of three things: the first is disciplining the lower 
self ( riyadat al-nafs ) 140 concerning things which are reprehensible ( makruhdt ); 141 the second 
is emptying one’s heart of any love for carnal lusts ( shahawdt ); and the third is standing guard 
( qiydm ) over one’s heart by warding off [unwarranted] thoughts (khatardt) which occur to it. 142 
Moreover, whoever is heedful ( rdqib ) of God when [unwarranted] thoughts [come upon] his 
heart, will have [God] protect him in his bodily acts. 


132 Thus far, the hadtth is recorded in Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman , vol. 2, pp. 330 and 553; and in Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul, 
vol. 2, p. 96. 

133 See above IC, p. 6, nn. 23 and 24 regarding the categories of verses in the Qur'an. 

134 That is, reading ma c al-kitab as in all the MSS, Z515, f. 25b, F638, f. 13b and F3488, f. 201b, instead of min al-kitab. 

135 Given the interpretation that was made in the previous paragraph this probably means a clear (i.e. unambiguous) verse’, 
as in the designation of the muhkam and mutashabih verses given in 3:7, though it is also possible that it means a clear 
sign. 

136 It appears here that Sahl has attached to the meaning of wisdom the responsibility of commanding right and forbidding 
wrong. 

137 Said of Lot. 

138 Tamma is added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 25b, F638, f. 13b and F3488, f. 201b. 

139 Here again, what Sahl seems to imply by wisdom is the Revelation and the Sunna. 

140 The MSS (Z515, f. 25b, F638, f. 13b and F3488, f. 201b) have the more likely riyada instead of riyad in the printed edition. 

141 According to Islamic Law, the makruhdt are things which, though not unlawful, are disapproved of, and should be 
avoided if possible. 

142 As noted above, p. 16, n. 24; khatar is something that occurs to the mind or comes to the heart, which may be undesirable 
or even evil. 


36 


2 Al-Baqara 


TJmar b. Wasil said: ‘His words, Exalted is He, He grants wisdom to whomsoever He pleases. . . 
[2:269] mean that He bestows the correct understanding of His Book upon whomsoever He 
wills, just as He, Exalted is He, said while addressing the wives of the Prophet fs, when they 
had been given bounties in abundance. And recite what is rehearsed to you in your houses, of the 
revelations (ayat) of God and His wisdom [33:34]. [In this verse] the revelations are the Qur'an, 
and wisdom is that which the Messenger H had extracted from it ( mustanbat ), 143 just as c AlI 4® 
said, ‘The signs are [manifest in] a man to whom God has granted understanding of His Book.’ 144 

He was asked about His words: 

[2:273] [Charity is] for the poor, who are constrained in the way of God... 

Sahl was asked about these words and the difference between the poor (fuqard ') and the abject 

( masdkin ). 145 He replied: 

God, Exalted is He, described the poor (faqir) in terms of destitution fadam ) due to their state 
of asking Him out of utter neediness (iftiqdr) and resorting ( lijcd ) to Him. He also described 
them as having the qualities of contentment ( rida ) and satisfaction [with their lot] ( qunff ), for 
He said, Exalted is He, . . . They do not beg from men importunately [2:273]. 

These are the People of the Bench (Ahl al-Suffa) of the Messenger of God $8 who were about forty 
men. 146 They did not have any dwellings in Medina nor [did they belong to] any tribes. These 
were the circumstances of a group of people whom God, Exalted is He, praised for the high 
degree of their dependence on Him. They had no ability ( istitad ), nor any strength ( quwwa ) 
except in Him and from Him. He was their power (hawl) and strength (quwwa). He uprooted 
from them the power for their hearts to depend ( sukun ) on anything other than Him, which is 
the incitement (waswasa) of the lower self towards that which is other than God, Exalted is He. 
Because of this [quality] they are elevated in their [spiritual] state. But [this is unlike] the one 
whom God turns back to the acquiescence of his lower self ( musdkana nafsihi), [about whom] 
He said, It belonged to deprived people (masakin) who worked at sea [18:79]. 147 He returned them 
to the situation in which they had acquiesced. However, as regards the poor and needy person 
(faqir), whose want has made him surrender himself to God, Exalted is He, his action involves 


143 The word mustanbat, or istinbat meaning literally ‘drawing water from a well’ came to be used by some Sufis to designate 
their elicitation of inner meanings from the Qur'anic verses. See, for example, the chapters on mustanbatat in Sarraj, 
Kitab al-Luma : c , pp. losff, and in Abu Sa c d Khargushl’s Tahdhlb al-asrar, MS Ahlwardt 2819, fols. 28i8ff; 98ff. 

144 It should be borne in mind that the word aya (pi. ayat) can mean a sign or ‘revelation as well as ‘verse’. 

145 Masakin is the plural of miskin, which according to Lane can mean ‘lowly, humble or submissive’, although it can also 
take the meaning of Tow, abject, ignominious’. The word occurs in a hadith of the Prophet: ‘O God, make me live lowly, 
die lowly and gather me [on the Day of Resurrection] in the congregation of the lowly ( masdkin) . ’ The hadith is listed 
in Ibn Maja, Sunan, ‘Abwab al-zuhd’, and Khatib al-TibrizI, Mishkat al-masabih, trans. by J. Robson (Lahore, 1975), vol. 
2, Book 25, ‘Words that Soften the Heart’. However, Tustari appears in this passage to be using the word in a pejorative 
sense, as will be seen from the latter part of the commentary on this verse. 

146 The Ahl al-Suffa, usually translated in English as the ‘People of the Bench’, were a group of Companions of the Prophet 
who, according to tradition, chose to live their lives in a portico or vestibule of the mosque in Medina, only leaving 
when they were commanded by the Prophet to go and fight. For Sufis in particular, they exemplified the ideal of a life 
of simplicity, poverty and piety. 

147 This is a reference to part of the story of Moses and Khidr, which is narrated in 18:60-82. Moses was on a journey to 
the ‘meeting of the two seas’ ( majma c al-bahrayn). Having reached there, he and his servant find that the fish that they 
had brought in a basket for their breakfast miraculously swims away. Retracing their steps, they encounter a mysteri- 
ous person who has been endowed with ‘knowledge from the divine presence’ ( Him ladunni), and who is identified in 
Islamic tradition with Khidr (or Khadir). Moses asks if he may accompany Khidr on his way, and Khidr agrees, on the 
condition that he (Moses) does not question him about anything he does. Khidr then proceeds to carry out three appar- 
ently shocking acts, at each of which Moses is unable to restrain himself from expressing his objection. The first is the 
sinking of a ship with people aboard (referred to here in Tustarl’s commentary); the second, is the killing of a youth; and 
the third is the rebuilding of a ruined wall without taking any payment. The third time Moses breaks the condition set 
for him, Khidr insists that they must part company, but not before he has given an explanation for the three actions he 
had carried out. Tustari’s identifying the people in the ship, whom the Qur'an describes as masdkin, with his pejorative 
use of this term is interesting, since Khidr s explanation for the sinking of the ship and its company was that there was 
a king in pursuit of them, who was seizing every ship by force. Perhaps Tustari is identifying the king with Satan. 


37 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


[combatting] the desire ( hawd ) of his lower self, 148 and thus he is in a better state than the one 
who acquiesces in whatever state he is in, due to following his lower self. 

TJmar b. Wasil said, ‘If one needy of God (faqlr ild’Llah), Mighty and Majestic is He, is satisfied, 
[yet] does not depend on 149 [his state of] contentment ( rida ) and self-surrender ( tasllm ), then both 
names are true for him: poverty (faqr ) and lowliness ( maskana ).’ 150 
Abu Bakr [al-SijzI] said that he heard Sahl say: 

The poor person is [one who is both] poor [and] helpless (faqir c djiz). Poverty r is honour ( c izz) 1151 
when it is the poverty of the heart’s being agitated [in its need] 152 for God, Mighty and Majestic 
is He, and the repose it finds in Him through obedience. Abjectness (maskana), however, is 
dishonour ( dhull ), for it is disobedience to God. Hasan related on the authority of Anas 4 ® 
from the Prophet that when this verse was revealed he said, ‘Treat the needy (fuqara’) with 
kindness, until the day when they take possession.’ He was asked, ‘O Messenger of God! When 
is the day that they will take possession?’ He replied, ‘The Day of Resurrection.’ 153 
[Sahl] was asked about His words: 

[2:281] And fear the Day wherein you shall be returned to God. 

He replied: 

This was the last verse to have been revealed, and with it God, Exalted is He, brought the Qur an 
to a close. The Messenger of God fj passed away eighty days after it was revealed. 

Then he said: 

When the night before the [trial] arrives when [justice will be demanded] by people of this 
world for crimes committed against them by others of this world, sleep and rest vanishes from 
those who are imprisoned [for those crimes]. They do not know what will be done with them 
due to My curse 154 on them, whether they will be killed or tortured, or let off and set free. This 
is the case for the offences committed by people of this world against others of this world, so 
how will it be for the people of the Hereafter when it comes to God’s grievances [against them] ? 
Concerning His words: 

[2:286] God charges no soul save to its capacity... 

[Sahl said]: 

That is, what it can bear; ...for it, is what it has merited..., that is, its reward for righteous deed[s], 
...and against it, is what it has earned. . . , meaning, the burden of sins.’ 

Then he said: 

Whoever is not concerned with his past sins will not be protected in the days that remain. 
Moreover, whoever is not protected in his remaining days will be among those who perish on 
their final return. 


148 All the MSS (Z515, f. 26b, F638, f. 14a and F3488, f. 202a) here have la-inna harakatahuft hawd nafsihi. This would be 
in keeping with that which Tustari advocated in his commentary on 2:30 above. The published edition, however, has: 
harakatahuft mawt nafsihi, that is: his action (lit. motion) is from the death of his lower self. 

149 None of the MSS (Z515, f. 26b, F638, f. 14a and F3488, f. 202b) have ilia as in the published edition. The latter would imply 
that they depend only on their contentment (rida) and self- surrender ( taslim ). But Tustari has just criticised those who 
depend on any state which they have. 

150 Here maskana is evidently being taken in a positive sense of only acquiescing in God. 

151 Added on the basis of all the MSS (Z515, f. 26b, F638, f. 14a and F3488, f. 202a). 

152 There is a discrepancy between the MSS here, with Z515, f. 26b and F3488, f. 202a having bi-lablabat al-qalb (as in the 
printed edition) and F638, f. 14a having inabat al-qalb with the meaning of remorseful repentance. 

153 Sulayman b. Ahmad al-Tabarani, al-Mu c jam al-saghir (Beirut/ Amman, 1985), vol. 2, p. 13. The hadith is related to convey 
the principle that the rich should treat the poor with consideration and kindness, because they will be answerable to 
the poor on the Day of Resurrection. 

154 Assuming that the waw has dropped out here, as is often the case with copyists who were native Persian speakers, so 
that it should have been written as da c wati. 


38 


2 Al-Baqara 


He was asked, ‘When does a man know his own sins?’ He replied: 

When he preserves the lights of his heart and does not allow anything to enter it or depart from 
it without [first] weighing it up, then he will know his own sins. Furthermore, whoever opens 
for himself a door to goodness, will find that God opens for him seventy doors to divinely- 
bestowed success ( tawftq ). On the other hand, whoever opens for himself a door to evil, will 
find that God opens to him seventy doors to evil whence the servant will not know. Every heart 
that preoccupies itself with that which does not concern it will be punished immediately by 
missing out on that which is its [genuine] concern at that moment (fi’l-hal ). 155 No one knows 
this except those who know God. 

[2:180] ...and leaves behind some good ... 156 

Concerning these words, he was asked, ‘In your opinion what is this good 7 .' He said: 

It refers to legitimate wealth, just as God, Exalted is He, has said, Say, ‘Whatever you spend that 
is good’ [2:215] — that is, out of legitimate wealth, for His purposes ( bi-wujuhihi ) and desiring 
His good pleasure; and [elsewhere] He said, And whatever good you expend of legitimate wealth, 
shall be repaid to you in full [2:272] , 157 meaning that you shall receive, from God, Exalted is He, 
the return and reward for your deeds, and for your purpose in doing them. 

He was asked about His words: 

[2:177] •• .those who show fortitude in misfortune and hardship... 

[Sahl said] 

This means that to begin with [they show fortitude] in upholding the Sunna; and in hardship 
means in avoiding that which is forbidden, both outwardly and inwardly, and in eating [only] 
that which is legitimate. The outward meaning of misfortune (ba 3 sa 3 ) is poverty (faqr), and that 
of hardship (darra 3 ) is adversity ( shidda ); and times of peril, that is, in battle. 

He was asked about His words: 

[2:206] ...he is seized by vainglory in his sin... 

He replied: 

This refers to [proud] fury (hamiya), just as He said in Sura Sad, in vainglory and defiance [38:2], 
that is, in proud fury and dissension ( ikhtilaf ). 

Concerning His words: 

[2:165] (Yet there are people who take to themselves idols), loving them as if loving God; but those 

who believe love God more ardently... 

He said: 

It means that they love idols (andad) in the way that they love God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 
Indeed, God, Exalted is He, described the intensity of their disbelief and their constancy ( sidq ) 
in the state of disbelief as ignorance (jahl ). He then described the love of the believers and 
their constancy in the state of faith in God, as truth (haqq). Then He accorded superiority to 
the believers due to their knowledge [or gnosis, ma c rifa] 15S saying, those who believe love God 
more ardently. This is due to their knowledge ( ma’rifa ), and all the other things that cause the 
believing servant to advance towards God and establish His remembrance. This is the level of 


155 A reminder that the would-be mystic should be the son of the moment’ ( ibn al-xvaqt), and the word waqt is also used 
interchangeably with hal to denote a persons state in the immediate present. Thus, preoccupation with what is past and 
what is to come is also, in a way, not the hearts business or concern. 

156 Regarding the ordering of the verses in the Tafsir, see above, Preface, p. xii. 

157 Between these two phrases in verse 2:272 (Whatever good you expend, and shall be repaid to you in full) the following 
words intervene: is for yourselves, for then you are expending, desiring only Gods face, which recalls Sahl’s specifying that 
the spending should be for [God’s] purposes and desiring His good pleasure, in his allusion to 2:215 below. 

158 Note that the term ma c rifa is not necessarily being used here in the particular manner of the Sufis to designate mystical/ 
experiential knowledge of God. 


39 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


the loving mystics ( c arifun muhibbun), since love is the inclination ( c atf) for the purest reality 
( khalisat al-haqq), which God, Exalted is He, [produces] in them. 

He was asked, ‘What is the sign of love?’ He replied: 

It is the embracing of obedience and the relinquishing of [any sense] of need [for other than 
God] ( mubdyanat al-faqa). It has been related that God, Exalted is He, said in a revelation to 
Moses, ‘Do you know why I cast my love upon you ?’, 159 to which he replied, ‘No, O Lord.’ He 
said, ‘Because you sought My delight ( masarra ). O Moses, [always] keep Me in mind, and don’t 
forget Me in any situation. Let your aspiration ( himma ) be for My remembrance ( dhikr ), for I 
will take care of your path .’ 160 But God, Transcendent and Exalted is He, knows best. 



159 An allusion to 20:39 : 1 cast upon you love from Me. 

160 That is to say, if a person takes care of the remembrance of God, He will take care of the outer, material concerns of their 
existence. 


40 


3 A1 c Imran 


[3:1, 2] Alif, Lam, Mim. God! There is no god except Him, the Living, the Eternal Sustainer. 

He [Sahl] said: 

It [Allah] is God’s Greatest Name, which is written across the sky in green light from East to West. 1 
[3:4] ...and He revealed the criterion... 

That is, the Qur'an, wherein is the way out of all doubt and error. 

[3:7] ...As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they follow the allegorical part, desiring sedition. . . 
That is, disbelief; ...and desiring its interpretation, refers to its interpretation according to the 
desire of their lower selves. . ..But no one knows its interpretation except God. 

Ibn 'Abbas said: 

God sent down the Qur'an according to four ways of reading ( ahruf ) : 2 the lawful ( haldl ) and the 
unlawful (hardm), ignorance of which nobody is excused; the interpretation ( tafsir ) according 
to which the Arabs have interpreted it; the interpretation according to which scholars ( c ulamd" ) 
have interpreted it; and the ambiguous ( mutashdbih ), which none but God, Exalted is He, knows, 
and whoever claims knowledge of it other than God, Mighty and Majestic is He, is lying. 3 
His words: 

[3:7] ...And those who are firmly rooted in knowledge (rasikhuna fiT-'ilm)... 

[Sahl] said: 

It was reported from 'All that he stated, ‘[Those rooted in knowledge] are the ones whom 
knowledge has protected from plunging [into the interpretation of the Qur'an] according to 
some whim ( hawd ) or with set arguments ( hujaj madruba) without [awareness of] the unseen 
[mysteries] ( ghuyub ).’ [This is] due to God’s guidance of them, and His disclosing to them His 
unseen secrets from within the treasure chests of knowledge. Thus they said, We believe in the 
Book; all of it is from our Lord [3:7]. So God, Exalted is He, acknowledged them [in this verse], 
and made them among the people of profound and far-reaching knowledge, as an increase 
granted to them from Him. Just as God has said, Exalted is He, But say: ‘O my Lord! Advance 
me in knowledge [20:114]’. 


1 See the commentary on 2:255 above where Tustarl stated the words God! There is no God but Him, the Living, the Eternal 
Sustainer (Allah la ilaha ilia hu al-Hayy al-Qayyum) were written across the sky. 

2 Tabari has included in his commentary several hadiths concerning the revelation of the Qurian according to a certain 
number of ahruf (sing. half). Most of these traditions speak of seven ahruf. Tabari presents two main interpretations of 
the word harf: one meaning ‘dialect’ or ‘tongue’, and the other equivalent to ‘aspect’ ( wajh , plur. wujuh or awjuh). The 
above tradition exemplifies the second understanding of the word ahruf See Abu Ja c far al-Tabari, Jamf al-bayan c an 
ta^wil ay al-Qur'an (Cairo, 1955-69), Tafsir Introduction, pp. 21-72; trans. Cooper, pp. 34ff. 

3 A similar tradition, also attributed to Ibn c Abbas and included in the introduction to Tabari’s Jam f al-bayan, reads as 
follows: ‘The tafsir of the Qur’an falls into four categories {awjuh): that which can be understood by the learned; that 
of which the Arabs have knowledge; that which it is unforgivable not to know; and that, the interpretation of which 
if anyone should claim to have knowledge, he is lying.’ See Tabari, Jamf al-bayan, vol. 1, pp. 29-30; trans. Cooper, pp. 
16-34. Note regarding the above, in this tradition the word awjuh has been used instead of ahruf 


41 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Sahl also said: 

God, Blessed and Exalted is He, showed those who are firmly rooted in knowledge to be excep- 
tional because of their saying all of it is from our Lord [3:7], by which they mean, the abrogating 
and the abrogated, the clear and the ambiguous. They are the ones who reveal three [ways of] 
knowing ( c ulum ), since those who know ( c ulamd J ) maybe [designated in] three [ways] , namely: 
those [whose knowledge derives from] the divine lordliness ( rabbdniyyun ), those [whose 
knowledge derives from] the divine light ( nuraniyyun ); and those [whose knowledge derives 
from] the divine essence’ ( dhatiyyun ). 4 [Those firmly rooted in knowledge reveal] in addition 
four [other kinds] of knowledge: revelation ( wahy ), theophany ( tajalli ), knowledge directly 
bestowed by God ( c indi ) and knowledge from the divine presence ( ladunni ), 5 just as God has 
said, to whom We had given mercy from Us and We had taught him knowledge from Us [18:65], 
[and when He said], Yet none remembers but the people of inner substance [2:269], that is, none 
reflects 6 7 8 9 save the people of understanding (fahm ) and intellect ( c uqul ), who say: 

[ 3 : 8 ] Our Lord, do not cause our hearts to deviate after You have guided us... 

That is, ‘Do not let our hearts turn away from faith after You have guided us with guidance 
from Yourself’; ...But grant us mercy from You, r that is, stability ( thabdt ) 17 ...You are the One 
who bestows, upon those who return to You in a state of neediness, entreaty and lowliness. 

Then Sahl said: 

The only stratagem ( hila ) that the servant has is to establish the practice throughout his life of 
saying, ‘My Lord! Protect me! Protect me! Keep me safe! Keep me safe! Help me! Help me!’ 8 
God, Exalted is He, has said, As He brought you into being, so shall you return [7:29]. 

Every person who affirms God’s oneness should know for a certainty that not everyone who 
loves God ( Haqq ) is loved by Him, for Iblls encountered Him with the r outward sign 19 of love 
and said, ‘ Shall I prostrate before one whom You have created from clay [17:61], when You are 
God, and it is not permissible to worship other than You?’ Consequently God cursed him. 
Therefore, not all those who try to draw close to God are accepted by Him. Nor does God 
accept the obedience (td c a) of all who obey Him. Truly He perceives what is in the conscience 
( damir ) [of all His creatures] . Thus, no one can feel secure that God will not deal with him in the 
same way that He dealt with Iblls. God cursed him with the lights of His protection ( bi-anwdr 
Hsmatihi) such that he was always in reality under His curse, but God veiled him from what had 
been foreordained [for him] from Him, up until the time when He punished him by bringing 
it to realisation through him. 10 Thus, the servant can do nothing except continually [implore] 
help (ghawth ) from God. Indeed the Messenger it said, ‘O You who make the steadfast firm, 
make me firm with Your firmness (thabatf. O You whose oneness is unchanging, for there is 
no god except You, Glorified are You! Truly I have been among the wrongdoers.’ 11 He would 

4 Alternatively the terms rabbdniyyun, nuriyyun and dhatiyyun might be translated as ‘those whose knowledge manifests 
the divine lordliness, light and essence, respectively’ On these three designations in particular, see IT, pp. xlvii. On 
Tustari’s teachings on knowledge in general, see IT, pp. xlv-xlviii. 

5 See Bowering’s discussion of this passage Mystical Vision, p. 228 with reference to Baqli’s Arab's al-bayan. See also an 
almost identical passage cited from Tustarl in MakkI (attrib.), 7 /m al-qulub, p. 81. 

6 That is, translating la yatafakkaruna, as in the MSS Z515, f. 28b and F3488, f. 204a, instead of ma yatadhakkaru in the 
printed edition. F638, f. 15a has neither la yatafakkaruna nor yatadhakkaru. 

7 Added on the basis of MSS: Z515, f. 28b and F638, f. 15a. F3488 204a appears to have thiyab which must be a copyists 
error. 

8 lit. ‘Safety, Safety! Security, Security! Help, Help!’ 

9 That is, reading c alamat al-hubb according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 29a, F638, f. 15a and F3488, 204a, instead of ala al- 
hubb as in the printed edition. This makes more sense because later Tustarl goes on to say that God perceives what is 
in the conscience (damir). 

10 Here we have an example of the divine ruse ( makr ) that was discussed earlier, whereby God can delude a person into 
believing that all is well with them (here the lights of divine protection), until the reality of that which has been fore- 
ordained for them is manifested. See above the commentary on 2:41, p. 20, n. 47 and n. 48 on makr and istidraj. 

11 Sulayman b. Ahmad al-Tabarani, al-Mu c jam al-awsat (Cairo, 1995), vol. 1, p. 206. 


42 


3 Al Imran 


also say: ‘0 Lord and Protector {wall) of Islam and its people, make me firm in Islam until I 
encounter You!’ 12 

[Sahl] said [on this matter], ‘The place of faith in God, Exalted is He, is the heart and the place of 
Islam is the breast, and it is subject to increase and decrease.’ 13 
His words: 

[3:15] ... with spouses pure. . . 

That is, purified from the defilements that they were subject to in this world, such as menstrua- 
tion and the like. Do you not note His words, And their Lord will give to them a pure drink to 
drink [76:21], which means that He will purify them from the remaining blemishes of the world? 
His words: 

[3:18] God bears witness... 

He [Sahl] said: 

That is, God knows and makes clear ( bayyana ) . . . that there is no god but He. He is witness to 
Himself by Himself; and this is particular to His essence. He called to witness those of His 
creatures whom He called to witness before their creation, according to His knowledge. 14 
Consequently, the people possessed of His gnosis ( mdrifa ) are made aware that He had full 
knowledge of everything that will be before it was actually brought into existence. Hence, 
[God’s] oneness ( tawhid ) is independent of existentiated beings ( dun al-akwdn), just as God 
was a witness to Himself by Himself before the existence of creation. 
c Abd al-Wahid 15 said: 

I was with Ayyub al-Sakhtiyanl when he saw a porter carrying wood. I asked him, ‘Do you have 
a Lord?’ to which he replied, ‘Is the likes of me questioned about his Lord?’ So I said to him, 
‘If you have a Creator as you claim, why do you work with wood?’ Then the man indicated to 
the sky, and lo and behold, the wood became gold! We were both amazed by him on account 
of this. Then he said, ‘O God! I have no need for this’, so the gold turned back to wood just as 
it was before. So we said to him, ‘What led you to do this?’, to which he replied, ‘I am [God’s] 
slave, so I carry this in order that I should not forget who I am.’ 16 
His words: 

[3:26] Say: ‘O God! Master of the Kingdom, You give the kingdom to whom You will... 

That is, the [kingdom ( mulk ) of] gnosis, the profession of divine oneness (tawhid), the codes 
of law of Your religion of Islam, and a praiseworthy end. [All] this [depends on] God’s taking 
care of the servant, and not relinquishing him to [reliance on] himself. 

His words: 

[3:103] And holdfast, all together to the rope of God and be not divided among yourselves. . . 


12 That is, according to all three MSS (Z515, f. 29a, F638, f. 15a and F3488, f. 204b), which do not have bihi following the 
hatta alqaka. 

13 Which is why the Prophet prayed for stability ( thabat ) in it. Other Sufis have spoken of the breast being the locus of 
Islam and the heart the locus of faith ( Iman ). See for example, Nurl, Maqamat al-qulub, p. 130; Maybudi, Kashf al-asrar, 
vol. 3, p. 557 and vol. 5, p. 333; and the treatise attributed to al-Hakim al-Tirmidhl, Bayan al-farq, trans. Heer in Three 
Early Sufi Texts, pp. 24ff. On Tustarl s view of faith and its locus in the inner constitution of the human being, see IT, p. 
xlii. 

14 A reference to the Covenant of Alast , on which see the commentary on 7:172, and IT, pp. xxxiff and xxxv-xxxvi. 

15 This is most probably Hasan al-Basris student c Abd al-Wahid b. Zayd who died in the second century of the Hijra. 

16 In other words, he wishes to be reminded of his subservience to God. It will be recalled above that the only veil remaining 
for the person who is in a state of the direct witnessing of face-to-face encounter (Hyan al-kifah ) is the veil of servanthood 
(' 'ubudiyya ), though in effect, all veils were removed at that moment. See above, the commentary on Tustarls poem, p. 
32. See also the commentary on 2:41, p. 19, n. 44. 


43 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

That is, ‘Adhere to your pact ( ‘ahd ) with Him, which is that of professing His oneness ( tawhid ), 
just as He has said, Exalted is He, Or has he made a covenant with the Compassionate One? [19:78], 
meaning [a covenant of] professing His oneness. Hold fast to that which He has assigned to 
you, in terms of carrying out his obligations ifard) and the Sunna of His Prophet.’ 17 Likewise 
is the meaning of His words, Save a rope from God [3:112], meaning a covenant from God and 
His religion. He called it a rope because whoever holds fast to it reaches that in which he put 
his faith. 18 
His words: 

[3:28] ...God warns you to beware of Him... 

He said: 

That is, [beware of] His justice ( c adl ), because the Fire is His justice for the one that disobeys 
Him, and the Garden is His favour (fadl ) to the one who obeys Him. Have you not taken note 
of the words of the Prophet M ‘O You, whose bounty alone is hoped for, and whose justice 
alone is feared!’? 

His words: 

[3:35] When the wife of c Imran said: ‘O Lord, I have consecrated what is in my womb solely to 
You ...’ 19 

That is, I have freed [what is in my womb], and emancipated it from enslavement to the world, 
from following its whim[s] and the desires ( muradat ) of its lower self. I have committed it as 
a servant of the worshippers at the Temple of Jerusalem, and have dedicated it purely to God, 
Exalted is He. 

His words: 

[3:37] Her Lord accepted her [ the infant Mary] graciously. . . 

That is, r with [His] good pleasure ( rida ). 120 
And he said: 

The Highest King took her into His special care, away from the shackles of the lower self and 
the world. And He made her grow in goodness, through righteous action, accompanied by the 
remembrance of God, Exalted is He, while all her bodily members were [engaged] in the service 
of God, and her heart was full of the knowledge of Him, Mighty and Majestic is He. 

[3:43] O Mary, be obedient to Your Lord... 

That is, ‘Pray to God and worship Him alone with sincerity. Bow in submission before Him, in 
supplication and humble entreaty.’ 

His words: 

[3:47] ...‘Even so. God creates what He will. When He decrees a thing, He says to it only: “Be” and 
it is.’ 21 

He [Sahl] said: 

When there is something in His pre-eternal knowledge that He wishes to bring to light, He 
says to it ‘Be’ and it is. 22 It has been said [in these lines of poetry]: 


17 The word for Gods assigning or granting possession to the believers used here ( malakakum ) derives from the same root 
as that for kingship used above in the commentary on 3:26, which went immediately before. 

18 Note that in the Introduction to the Commentary (IC, p. 4), Tustari identifies the Qur'an as the ‘rope ( habl ) of God’. 

19 The child in her womb was Mary, the mother of Jesus, as will become clear from verses 37 and 43. 

20 Added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 30a, F638, f. 15b and F3488, f. 205a. 

21 These words are said to Mary by one of the angels who bring her the tidings of the birth of Jesus, l a Word from [God], 
whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary! Mary asks, ‘ My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has 
touched me?’ and the verse above is the answer that is given to her. 

22 These words are also to be found in Sura Ya Sin, 36:82. 


44 


3 Al Imran 


He decreed, before creating the creation, all that He would create: 

Created beings, none of whose affairs are hidden from Him, [nor] 

Their desires, [nor their] intimate secrets, [nor] that which their hearts enclose. 

And [He decreed] what was [in] their minds prior to their desire. 

His words: 

[3:61] ...then let us humbly pray (nabtahil) 

That is, ‘Let us invoke [Gods] curse, one upon the other.’ 23 The one who beseeches ( mubtahil ) 
is the supplicant (dad), and the [act of] beseeching ( ibtihal ) is supplication (duff). The one 
who glorifies ( musabbih ) is the one who remembers ( dhakir ), and this is not written down by 
the recording angels, 24 for it is a witnessing of the One remembered in a remembrance that is 
through the One remembered. 25 This is the meaning of His saying, ‘I keep company with the 
one who remembers Me, and when and wherever My servant seeks me out he will find Me.’ 26 

His words: 

[3:64] Say: ‘O People of the Scripture! Come to a word agreed upon (kalimatin sawa in) between 

us and you: that we worship none but God...’ 

That is, ‘[Let us] seek a just [agreement] ( tamdn c adlin) between us and you.’ This is because 
they affirmed that their Creator and the Creator of the heavens and the earth was God, Exalted 
is He, and [agreed]: ‘Let us declare His oneness and not worship anyone except Him.’ 

The basis of worship is the profession of God’s oneness ( tawhid ) along with living according to 
what is lawful, while avoiding the harm [of others] (kaff al-adha) . Furthermore, a person can- 
not accomplish living by what is lawful without abandoning the harm of others, and likewise 
he does not abandon causing harm save through living by what is lawful. If you know how 
to abide by what is lawful, how to abandon causing harm, and the [correct] intention ( niya ) 
behind actions, as well as you know the Fdtiha [Surat al-Fatiha], then your faith will become 
pure, as will your hearts and bodily members. Indeed, these are the fundamentals. 

He continued: 

Muhammad b. Sawwar related from al-Thawrl that he said, ‘The degree of importance within 
the servant of [the reality] of “There is no god save God” is as water to the world. 27 God has 
said, And We produced from water every living thing [21:30].’ Thus, whoever is not benefited by 
his belief that ‘There is no god save God’ and his adherence to the Sunna of the Messenger of 
God IS, is as a dead person. 

Sahl added: 

Truly I know a man among the friends of God, Exalted is He, who passed by a man who had 
been crucified ( maslub ) with his head fixed in a direction away from the qibla. He said to him, 
‘Where is that tongue with which you used to pronounce with all honesty: “There is no god 
save God?”’ Then he added, ‘Oh God grant me his sins!’ 

Through God’s Power [his head] was then turned towards the qibla. 

His words: 

[3:72] ...at the outset (wajh) of the day... 


23 According to the Qur’anic context, Muhammad has been ordered that if anyone disputes the knowledge that has been 
revealed to him, he should gather all of them together, and command them to invoke Gods rejection upon whomsoever 
of them is lying. In his commentary, however, Tustarl focuses on the meaning of ibtihal contrasting it with the act of 
glorifying God ( tasbih ). 

24 That is, omitting the word ilia before al-hafaza, since it is absent from all three MSS: Z515, f. 30a and F638, f. 15b. F3488, 
f. 205b does not have either the la or the ilia. 

25 i.e. it is something that is between God and the one who remembers Him, and to which the angels are not privy. 

26 Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 1, p. 451. This same hadlth was cited earlier, in the Introduction to the Commentary when 
Tustari was speaking of those who are crazed or ecstatic’ in their remembrance of God. 

27 This being the first of the two attestations of faith ( shahadatayn ), the second being ‘Muhammad is His Messenger’. 


45 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


That is, at the beginning ( awwal ) of the day. 

His words: 

[3:73] And He is All-Embracing, All-Knowing. 

This means. He gives in abundance ( kathir al-itcL). He is able, through His pre-eternal 
omnipotence ( qudra ), to give all that He is asked for. Furthermore He encompasses everything, 
as He has said [in the words of Abraham] : ‘My Lord encompasses everything in His knowledge 
[6:80]’. 

He [Sahl] was asked about His words: 

[3:79] ■■■Rather [he should say], ‘Be masters (rabbaniyyun) by virtue of what you know of the 
Book and in what you study , 28 
He related: 

Muhammad b. Sawwar said, ‘The person [whose knowledge derives from the] divine lordliness 
( rabbani ) is the one who does not choose anyone over his Lord, and it [the name] is derived 
from the word rububiyya’. 29 
Sahl continued: 

People whose knowledge derives from the divine lordliness ( rabbdniyun ) are those who are 
elevated 30 in the degree of [their] knowledge by virtue of [that] knowledge, just as Muhammad 
b. Hanafiyya said on the death of c Abd Allah Ibn c Abbas ‘Indeed, today one whose knowledge 

derived from the divine lordliness ( rabbani ) in this community ( umma ) has died. Furthermore, 
he [the rabbani] is associated with the Lord ( rabb ) because he is knowledgeable through 
His knowledge, just as He said, She asked, ‘Who told you this?’ He said, ‘I was told by the All- 
Knowing, the Aware’ [6 6:3]. 31 He [the Prophet] related it to prophethood (nubuwwa), 32 because 
of that which God had taught him, Mighty and Majestic is He . 33 Thus, anyone who informs 
you of something which conforms to the Book and the Sunna, is ‘an informant’ ( munbt). M 


28 Verses 60-84 of Sura Al Tmran speak about, and admonish the People of the Scripture (also known as the People of 
the Book, i.e. the Jews and Christians) concerning their conduct and their responses to the Scripture. In full it reads: 
It belongs not to any mortal that God should give him the Book, the Judgement, prophethood, then that he should say to 
men, ‘Be servants to me instead of God.’ Rather, [he should say] ‘Be masters, by virtue of what you know of the Book and 
in what you study [3:79]. 

29 See above, the commentary on 3:7, n. 34 below, and above IT, p. xlvii. 

30 Translating c alun according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 31a, F638, f. 16a and F3488, f. 206a, as opposed to c dlimun in the 
printed edition. 

31 The context of these words is indicated by the beginning of the verse: And when the Prophet confided a certain matter 
to one of his wives. However, when she divulged it and [then] God apprised him of it, he announced part of it [to her], and 
passed over part. So when he told her about it, she said, ‘Who told you this V He said, ‘I was told by the Knower, the Aware’. 
The commentaries name the person in whom the Prophet confided as Hafsa, and the person to whom she divulged the 
confidence as c A'isha. 

32 The word used in the verse for ‘told you’ is anba from the root n-b-\ from which the word for prophethood ( nubuwwa ) 
is derived. 

33 In his Qut al-quliib, Makki cites a tradition of c Ali on the authority of Kumayl b. Ziyad, in which he defines the rabbani 
as one who knows the divine lordliness ( c alim bi’l-rububiyya), or who knows through the divine lordliness. He then 
describes the rabbaniyyun as being of three kinds, each of which is connected to a different verse of the Qur'an. There 
are those who have knowledge of the Qur'an and teach it, on the basis of 3:79: Be masters (rabbaniyun) by virtue of what 
you know (ta c lamun, also read as tu c allimun, ‘you teach’) of the Book. Another designation of rabbani is the one who 
knows and acts and teaches people the good ( khayr ), and this is connected to 5:63: Why do their rabbis (rabbaniyyun) 
and priests not forbid them. . . The third designation equates the rabbaniyyun with ribbiyyun, who are described in 3:146: 
Many prophets have fought, with large bands of godly men (ribbiyyun) beside them. . ., and Makki observes that they are 
as the rest of the verse describes them, in standing firm with what is commanded, and showing strength in the religion 
and forbearance in the face of God’s decrees (i.e suffering that is destined for them). See Makki, Qut al-qulub, vol. 1, pp. 
257-8. We are grateful to Harith Bin Ramli for the reference to this citation. 

34 Tustari’s use of words here is subtle, since the word munbi\ like the word anba ' in the verse, derives from the root n- 
b-w, and according to Muslim doctrine there can be no prophet after Muhammad, he being the Seal of Prophets and 
prophethood ( Khatm al-Anbiya '). Nonetheless, Tustari appears to have chosen this word in order to maintain the link 


46 


3 Al Imran 


Those possessed of knowledge are of three kinds: there is the one whose knowledge derives 
from the divine lordliness ( rabbanl ), the one whose knowledge derives from the divine light 
( nuranl ), and the one whose knowledge derives from the divine essence ( dhati ), 35 [who has] no 
intermediary between him and God most High; within him is a ‘subsisting’ ( baqiyya ) of God, 
Mighty and Majestic is He. 36 [On the other hand] , TJmar b. Wasil said: those whose knowledge 
derives from the divine lordliness ( rabbaniyyun ) are the collectivity of scholars. This resembles 
a saying of c Ali 4 ®, ‘People are of three kinds: the knower whose knowledge derives from the 
divine lordliness ( c alim rabbanl ), the person acquiring knowledge ( mutalallim ) on the path to 
salvation, and the commoners and riff-raff, who follow every charlatan. 37 

His words: 

[3:85] If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Islam means the committing of one’s affairs [to God] ( tafwld ) as in His words: Do not die except 
as Muslims [3:102], by which He means ‘as ones who have committed their affairs [to Him].’ 
The same is implied by His words: The Religion before God is Islam [3:19]. 

He was asked about His words: 

[3:92] You will not attain mindfulness of God until you expend of that which you love... 

That is, he said: 

It means, ‘You will not attain full mindfulness of God until you go to war with your lower selves 
and expend some of what you love.’ Furthermore, there is no spending ( infaq ) like consuming 
( infaq ) the lower self by opposing it, and by seeking the good pleasure of God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He. 

Then he related a story of Jesus SSB: 

Once he passed by three people whose bodies were emaciated and faces pale. He asked them, 
‘What has brought you to this state I see you in?’ They said, ‘The fear ( khawf) of our Creator and 
wariness ( hadhr ) of punishment for our disobedience.’ He responded, ‘God made it incumbent 
upon Himself to grant safety to the one who fears [Him] .’ Then he moved on until he came to 
three other people who were even more emaciated. He asked them, ‘What has brought you to 
this state I see you in?’ They answered, ‘The yearning ( shawq ) for our Lord.’ He replied, ‘God 
made it incumbent upon Himself to grant you what you wish for.’ Then he moved on until 
he came to three people who were even more emaciated, whose faces were like full moons. 
He asked, ‘What has brought you to this state I see you in?’ They replied: ‘Love {hubby. He 
said, ‘You are the people of proximity [with God] {muqarrabun)f a and he said it thrice. 39 Thus, 

between the two words in the sense of knowledge coming directly from God, which is indicated by his citation of 66:3 
and his comment on the Prophet’s words. 

35 Knowing here being perhaps a state of realisation, being, or manifestation as was discussed in the note to the commentary 
on 3:7 above, p. 42, n. 4, IT, p. xlvii and n. 205. 

36 We may understand from this that Tustari sees the level of knowing manifested by the dhatiyyun to be in some way 
analogous to the state of baqa 3 (subsisting in God) that is concomitant with fane? (annihilation from self), which may be 
implied by Tustari’ s use of the the term baqiyya , though it should be added that in his Tafsir he does not employ these 
two terms ( fana 3 and baqa') as they are so often applied in later Sufism. Rather, he uses baqa J to refer to the everlasting- 
ness of Paradise. See above IT, p. lix, n. 269. 

37 This saying appears in the Nahj al-balagha of Imam c AlI b. Abi Talib, at the commencement of a section of advice given 
privately to his disciple Kumayl b. Ziyad al-Nakha c i. The passage is discussed and translated in full by James W. Morris 
in idem, ‘Surrender and Realisation: Imam c Ali on the Conditions for True Religious Understanding’, Ruh ad-Din, vol. 
1 (2000). In the Nahj al-balagha, the saying has, in addition to that which is cited by Tustari: ‘... the riff-raff and rabble 
who follow every screaming voice; those who bend with every wind, who have not sought to be illuminated by the 
Light of Knowing and who have no recourse to solid support.’ See the same article p. 27, n. 8 for a discussion of the word 
rabbaniyyun. 

38 lit. ‘those who have been brought near’. See above, the commentary on the poem forming part of Tustari’s commentary 
on 2:241. 

39 This story was popular among Sufi writers. It may be found narrated twice in Rashid al-DIn Maybudl’s Qur'an commentary, 


47 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


whoever loves God, Exalted is He, is one of the people of proximity [with God], for if anyone 
loves something they hasten towards it. 

So the first level is the rank of the repentant ( tawwdbun ); the second is that of the people of 
longing ( mushtdqun ), and then the servant reaches the third rank which is that of love. Do you 
not see how they gave their all for the sake of the One who possesses all, turned their backs on 
all, and faced the direction of the One who possesses all? 

[Concerning] His words: 

[3:96] The first House established for the people was that at Bakka, a blessed place. . . 

[He said]: 

That is, ‘The first house which was set down for men was the House of God, Mighty and Majestic 
is He, in Mecca.’ This is the outward meaning [of the verse] . However inwardly it implies the 
Messenger. The one who believes in him [the Messenger] is the one in whose heart God has 
made firm the profession of His oneness ( tawhid ). 40 

His words: 

[3:106] On the Day when some faces are whitened... 

This means, the faces of the believers will become white through the light of their faith; . . . and 
some faces are blackened..., namely, the [faces] of the disbelievers, due to the darkness of their 
disbelief. 

He was asked about His words, Abasement and wretchedness were cast upon them [2:61] . He replied: 
The purpose of these bodies is in the ‘deposits’ ( wadcTif that God has placed within them, by 
which He puts His creatures to the test. Among [these deposits] is one from which the obedi- 
ent ( taTun ) should draw admonitory lessons, namely, disbelief ( kufr ). [On the other hand], 
there are those which are proof against the heedless ( ghdfilun ), namely, gnosis ( maTifa ) and 
affirmation ( tasdiq ) through speech and actions, just as He has said, And He appointed dark- 
nesses and light [6:1]. The inner meaning of this verse is that light is knowledge {Him) and 
darkness is ignorance (jahl ), in accordance with His words, And he whom God has not granted 
any light has no light [24:40], that is, the heart [of such a person] has not [the light] by which 
to perceive faith in God. 41 

The light of faith is one of the greatest blessings ( minan ) of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and 
tokens of His generosity {karamat). The second [blessing] is the ‘good word’ which is referred 
to in His words, Exalted is He, Come now to a word that is agreed upon between us and you 
[3:64] . The third [great blessing] is obedience ( itffa ) that the bodily members carry out purely 
for God’s sake, as when the prayers are maintained and obligatory alms ( zakat ) are paid [in a 
spirit of] satisfaction {qunuf and contentment {rida). Thus, [in this latter verse] He summoned 
them to the best speech, and the most excellent actions. If it had not been for faith in God and 
the Qur’an, which is the knowledge of God, and which contains a call [for people] to affirm 
His lordship and to serve Him in fear, then the prophets, upon whom be blessings and peace, 
would not have known who among the people had responded to them. 

His words: 

[3:141] And that God may prove the believers... 


the Kashf al-asrar, vol. 7, p. 78; vol. 9, p. 91, and it also appears in Ghazalis Ihya^ulum al-Din, Book 36: Kitab al-Mahabba, 
p. 182; idem., Kimiya ' al-sa c ddat (Tehran, 1985), vol. 2, p. 571. 

40 See Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 160, on Shatibls citation of the correct reading of Tustaris explanation ‘that the hidden 
meaning of the house ( batin al-bayt) is the heart of Muhammad’, which may be found in ShatibI, al-Muwafaqat, vol. 3, 
p. 241. 

41 The citation of these verses here seems to confirm that Tustari sees disbelief {kufr) as well as gnosis ( ma c rifa ) and af- 
firmation [of truth] ( tasdiq ) as being deposits, and thus preordained by God. 


48 


3 Al Imran 


This means their being purified ( takhlis ) 42 from the blemishes of sins, just as they devoted 
themselves purely to Him ( akhlasu lahu) in deed, which was [their] striving (jihad) in the way 
of God; ...and efface the disbelievers. This means the destruction of the disbelievers through 
the affliction brought on by their sins. 

His words: 

[3:152] ... Yet now He has pardoned you. . . 

This refers to the defeated army on the Day of Uhud, when He did not eradicate them all. And 
God is bounteous to the believers, by His pardoning them and accepting their repentance. 

His words: 

[3 :1 55] Truly, those of you who turned back the day the two hosts met, truly, it was Satan who 

caused them to slip, because of some of what they had earned... 

[Sahl] was asked about the meaning of that earning (kasb). He said: 

It was the complacency that they felt because of their great numbers on the day of Hunayn 
and the glory they had gained on the Day of Badr. 43 This was due to Satan coming to associ- 
ate with them, after [he saw] the acquiescence ( musakana ) of their hearts, 44 and their regard 
for themselves, because of the complacency (ijdb) that their own lower selves had seduced 
them into. So God lifted His protection (Hsma) from them as a punishment. Indeed, when the 
Prophet M heard his Companions say on the Day of Hunayn, ‘We shall not be overcome by so 
few’, he warned them, ‘Do not wish to encounter the enemy, rather ask for safety (dfiya) from 
God, Exalted is He’, 45 from dependency on your own devising ( tadbir ) in any situation, and 
from [being unaware of your] neediness (dun al-iftiqar) for God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 
See how when David asked his Lord to join him with the ranks of Abraham, Ishmael and 
Isaac, He replied, ‘You are not on that level, O David.’ He asked, ‘Why is that O Lord?’, to which 
God replied, ‘Because I tested them and they showed patience. Furthermore, they did not know 
the world and the world did not know them. But you have known the world and it has known 
you, and you adopted it as your kin.’ David SS® said, ‘Show me one from among your servants 
who, if You tested him, would show patience.’ Then God, Mighty and Majestic is He, said, ‘I’m 
going to test you.’ Thus he [David] became the first to request affliction (bald), r and the one 
who exposed himself to 146 testing (imtihan) from God, Exalted is He. That is to say, this was [of 
course] in accordance with God’s prior knowledge in the veiled unseen, which is solely known 
to Him. Then Iblis came to him in the form of a pigeon and the story took place involving Uriah 
b. Hanan. 47 God did not protect [David] from desire, intent or action. However, He protected 


42 The verb khalasa, from which is derived the word takhlis (above) and the key Sufi term ikhlas, has both the meaning of 
becoming pure, and becoming free or being delivered from something. 

43 For an account of the Battles of Badr, Uhud and Hunayn, see Lings, Muhammad , pp. 138-52, 177-88 and 306-9; Guillaume, 
Life of Muhammad, pp. 289, 370 and 566 respectively. 

44 On the danger of the hearts (or lower self’s) acquiescing ( musakana ) see above Tustarl’s commentary on 20:30 and 2:273, 
p. 16, n. 26 and IT, pp. xxxiv-xxxv. 

45 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Jihad’; Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al- Jihad wal-sayr’. 

46 That is translating wal-muta c arrid which is in Z515 f. 33a and F3488, f. 207b. F638, f. 17a has al-ta Q arrud with more or 
less the same meaning. 

47 The story relates how God warned David that He would test him on a certain day. On the said day, David shut himself 
in a room and began to read the Book of Psalms. Then Satan came to him in the form of a golden dove. David reached 
out to pick it up and it flew a little distance from him. He went after it, and again he tried to catch hold of it, but it flew 
away from him a little further. So it went on until the dove led him to a place where he caught sight of a beautiful woman 
bathing on a roof. When David inquired about her he discovered that her husband was Uriah, who was absent at war 
in a particular garrison which had defeated the enemy. David commanded that Uriah be sent to fight a stronger enemy, 
and again they were victorious, whereupon David commanded that they should go and fight an even stronger enemy 
and yet again they were victorious. Finally, after the army had been sent to fight an even mightier and more powerful 
enemy, Uriah was killed and David married his wife. Then two angels appeared before David and asked him to judge 
between two brothers, one of whom owned ninety-nine ewes and the other only one. The brother with ninety-nine 
ewes wished to take the one from his brother to make up a hundred. David could see the injustice of this, upon which 


49 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Joseph from action, though He did not protect him from desire and intent. 48 

His words: 

[3:159] It was by the mercy of God that you [Muhammad] were lenient with them... 

This means, ‘Due to an act of sympathy ( c atf) from God you dealt gently with them’, And if 
you had been harsh, with [your] tongue, and fierce of heart, they would have dispersed from 
about you, that is, ‘They would have separated themselves from you’. So pardon them, that is, 
‘Overlook their faults’, and ask forgiveness for them, for their defeat on the Day of Uhud. Consult 
them in the matter, that is, ‘Do not distance them from yourself because of their disobedience, 
but accommodate them through your graciousness (fadl ), for it is through Us that you pardon, 
through Us that you seek forgiveness, and to Us that you turn for guidance’. Then, when you are 
resolved, that is, ‘If you wish to carry something out after consultation, put your trust in God. . . , 
that is, ‘Rely on God notwithstanding that [consultation], consign all your affairs to Him, and 
depend on Him without regard for anyone else.’ He [the Prophet] did not leave this world before 
God, Exalted is He, had disclosed to his heart realms of knowledge which were between him 
and God, Exalted is He, without any intermediary, due to his love of pondering and reflection, 
in reverent awareness ( Ltibdr ) of the omnipotence of his Lord, so that he attained an increase 
from God most High, just as He was commanded in the words of God, Exalted is He, But say: 
‘My Lord! Increase me in knowledge’ [20:114]. Furthermore, he enjoined this upon his nation 
(umma), as is related from the Prophet SI in his words, ‘Consult those who are mindful of God 
( muttaqun ), who have preferred the Hereafter over this world, and who give you priority over 
themselves in your affairs.’ And he also said, ‘Consult the righteous scholars, and when you 
have made your resolve to carry something out, put your trust in God.’ 

He [Sahl] said [in this regard]: 

Fraternise with brothers among the people who are mindful of God, and let the person whom 
you consult be one of those who fear God, Exalted is He. Let your word not be broken. And 
never be hostile to anyone until you know the states of his conduct with God, Exalted is He. If 
he has good conduct with God; then do not be hostile towards him, for certainly God, Exalted 
is He, will not forsake him for you. And if his conduct is bad, do not be hostile towards him 
[either] for his bad conduct will suffice him. 49 

He also said: 

Whoever is consulted and then gives advice that is contrary to his own opinion, God most 
High will strip him of his opinion, that is. He will dupe him into [believing] what he advised. 
[Moreover], whoever consults, puts his trust in God, carries out what he has resolved to do, 
but afterwards regrets [what has happened] has reproached God, Exalted is He. 

Concerning His words: 

[3:160] If God helps you, then no one can overcome you; but if He forsakes you, then who is there 

who can help you after Him?... 

He said: 

To be forsaken (khidhlan) means to be utterly abandoned (ghdyat al-tark). As for abandonment 
itself ( tark ), that is for the sinner who recognises his sin. Being forsaken (khidhlan), however, is 
for the one who sins while believing that he is doing something good. This is God’s punishment 


it was pointed out to him that he had ninety-nine wives, whilst Uriah had had one wife, and that David had had Uriah 
killed in battle in order to take his one wife. David became deeply repentant at this. This version of the story appears 
in Tabari, History of al-Tabari, vol. 3, trans. William Brinner, The Children of Israel (Albany, 1991), pp. 145-7. 

48 A reference to part of the story of Joseph narrated in 12:23-34, in which the wife of c Aziz, who is Josephs master, attempts 
to seduce him. Verse 24 states: And she certainly desired him, and he would have desired her, had it not been that he saw 
the proof of his Lord. Tustari was evidently among those commentators who considered that Joseph did desire her, and 
even added intent ( qasd ) to the desire, though unlike David, he was preserved though the divine protection (Hsma) 
from committing the act. Again, see above regarding Adam, the commentary on 2:30, and IT, pp. xxxiv-xxxv. 

49 Because it will inevitably bring its own punishment from God. 


50 


3 Al Imran 


to the one who is forsaken, for He upholds him in sin, having the knowledge both of his sin 
and of his subsequent procrastination of repentance. Do you not see how Iblis, when he refused 
[to obey], and persisted in that refusal was forsaken by God due to His prior knowledge about 
him? This is because He willed from him that which was in accordance with His knowledge; He 
did not will from him that which was in accordance with His command. 50 However Adam SS®, 
because he was not forsaken in his abandonment, confessed to his sin after committing it and 
returned to his Lord, Majestic and Mighty is He, and his repentance was accepted. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[3:173] ...God is sufficient for us; an excellent guardian is He. 

That is, He is the best guarantor of our provisions, and the best Lord. This is as in His words, 
Exalted is He, Do not take any guardian beside Me [17:2], that is, [do not take any] Lord [beside 
Me], 

His words: 

[3:187] ...But they rejected it behind their backs ... 51 

That is, they did not act by the Book, and purchased with it some miserable gain, that is, they 
bought in exchange for the everlasting Hereafter, the goods of this transitory world. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[3:191] Those who remember God, standing, sitting, and [reclining] on their sides... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Whoever wishes to memorise the Qur'an should complete three whole readings following 
the conditions stated in this verse: a reading completed while standing in prayer, a reading 
completed while sitting and studying it, and a reading completed while reclining on ones 
side. Then, he will not forget [it], God willing, Mighty and Majestic is He. Moreover, whoever 
occupies himself with seeking knowledge with the full awareness of God, and with the recita- 
tion of the Qur'an, the remembrance ( dhikr ) of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, adherence 
to the Sunna, and avoidance of all frivolity ( lahw ), will not be afflicted by disease or sickness. 
Furthermore, whoever obeys God with knowledge and sincere intention ( niya ) will not lose 
his mind [lit. intellect, c aql]. 

The Prophet M said, ‘Whoever obeys God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has truly remembered 
Him, but whoever disobeys Him has truly forgotten Him.’ 52 
His words: 

[3:200] O you who believe, be patient, and vie in patience; be steadfast and fear God that you may 
prosper. 

He said: 

Faith has four pillars. The first is trust ( tawakkul ) in God, the second is complete submission 
( istislam ) to His commands, the third is being content and satisfied ( rida ) with what He has 
preordained ( qadcTihi ), and the fourth is gratitude ( shukr ) for His blessings along with mind- 
fulness of Him ( taqwa ). 

A Section on Faith 

Certainty ( yaqin ) is the heart of faith, patience ( sabr ) is the backbone of faith, and sincerity ( ikhlds ) is 
the perfection of faith, for through sincerity the servant reaches true affirmation ( tasdiq ). Furthermore, 

50 On the divine mashVa and irada, see above notes to Tustaris commentary on 1:5 and 2:2, and p. 10, n. 4. 

51 This is a reference to the rejection by the Children of Israel of the covenant they had made with God, according to which 
they were to expound the scripture to people, and not conceal it. 

52 c AlI Abu Bakr al-Haythami, Majma c al-zawa'id wa manbcf al-fawa'id (Cairo, 1933-4), vol. 2, p. 258; Sulayman b. Ahmad 
al-Tabaranl, al-Mu c jam al-kablr (Mosul, 1983-90), vol. 22, p. 154. One is reminded of the admonition which Tustaris 
uncle gave him when in his childhood. See above, IT, p. xv. 


51 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


through true affirmation he attains realisation ( tahqlq ), and through realisation he reaches God 
( al-Haqq ). Sincerity is the fruit of certainty, for certainty is witnessing ( mushahada ) in the inner- 
most secret (szrr ). 53 Moreover, whoever does not experience witnessing in [his] innermost secret 
in the presence of his Lord r and does not behold Him 1 , 54 has not made his actions sincere . 55 But 
God knows best. 



53 On this level of certainty, and on the link between faith and certainty, see above Tustarfs commentary on 2:40 and 2:41, 
and accompanying notes. See also IT, pp. xlviii-xlix. 

54 Translating wa yarahu, as being governed by the preceding negative, as in all three MSS: Z515, f. 34b, F638, f. 17b and 
F3488, f. 209a. One is reminded here of the hadlth of Gabriel, in which the three levels of islam, iman and ihsdn are 
discussed. On this hadith, see above IT, p. lviii, n. 265. 

55 Translating lam yukhlis c amalahu , on the basis of all three MSS: the MSS (Z515, f. 34b, F638, f. 17b and F3488, f. 209a). 
whereas the printed edition has lam yukhlis c amalahu li’Lldh , i.e. he has not dedicated his action, or made it sincerely 
for God. 


52 


4 Al-Nisa D 


Sahl was asked about His words: 

[4:4] And give women their dowries as a free gift... 

He said: 

It means, give them the dowry ( sadaq ) as a gift to them from God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 
Indeed dowry ( nihla ) is religion ( diyana j. 1 
He continued: 

The Prophet said: ‘The basest of sins before God, Exalted is He, is to prevent a worker from 
being paid, and to stop a woman receiving her dowry ( mahr ).’ 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:17] The repentance that God accepts is only of those who do evil in ignorance and repent shortly 
thereafter. . . 

He said: 

One who is repentant ( ttiib ) keeps away from sin and observes obedience. One who is obedi- 
ent {muff) is wary of ostentation ( riya and persists in remembrance ( dhikr ). The one who 
is constant in remembrance ( dhakir ) is wary of conceit ( Hijb ), and imposes upon himself [the 
sense of] his own deficiency ( taqsir ). 

[Concerning this verse] he also said: 

God most High revealed to David 8S®, ‘The wailing of sinners is more beloved to Me than the 
clamour of the veracious ( surdkh al-siddiqun)’. 3 
His words: 

[4:29] ...And kill not yourselves... 

Do not destroy yourselves through transgressions ( ma c asi ) and persistence [in transgression], 
and by neglecting repentance ( tawba ) after returning to rectitude ( istiqama ). Surely God is ever 
merciful to you [4:29] in that He forbade transgression to you, so that you might not perish, 
which is further expounded in His words, Exalted is He: 


1 The word nihla can mean both a gift and a religion, so it is synonymous with din or diyana. 

2 In this passage, three different words for payments due to women upon their marriage have been used: sadaq, nihla and 
mahr. There does not appear to be any practical difference in the application of these words, though it is interesting to 
note that the first is derived from the root s-d-q meaning to be sincere, which is said to indicate that the man in giving 
the dowry is showing his sincere intentions towards the woman he is marrying, while the word nihla is derived from 
the root n-h-l meaning to give a gift. 

3 This saying appears in Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 5, p. 452. A variant form of the tradition, which has ‘the murmur- 
ing of angels’ (zajl al-muqarrabin ) instead of clamour of the veracious’ ( surdkh al-siddiqin), is cited in Maybudl’s Kashf 
al-asrar, vol. 3, pp. 21 and 640, while another version listed in Munawl, Fayd al-qadir, vol. 5, p. 331, has ‘The groaning of 
sinners [is dearer] to God than the murmuring of those who glorify [Him]’ (antn al-mudhnibin [ahabb] ilaLldhi min 
zajl al-musabbihin). What is meant by the tradition is probably that the repentance and anguished remorse of sinners 
who acknowledge their sins and faults is dearer to God than the complacency of those who have confidence in their 
virtue and good works. 


53 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


[4:31] If you avoid the grave sins that you are forbidden, We shall absolve you of your [minor] 
misdeeds... 

[Concerning that] he [Sahl?] said: 

It was related that Ibn Mas ud said, ‘The grave sins (kabdir) are those mentioned from the 
beginning of Surat al-Nisa up to this verse.’ 

And Sahl added: 

The major sins are those that carry God’s threat of the Fire within His Book, Exalted is He. 
His words: 

[4:36] ...to the neighbour who is close, and the neighbour who is a stranger, to the companion at 
your side, and to the wayfarer ... 4 
He said: 

As for the outward meaning: the neighbour who is a stranger is the one who is not related to 
you and is foreign; the companion at your side is your fellow traveller, or it has also been said 
that it is your spouse; and the wayfarer (ibn al-sabil) means the guest. As for its inner meaning: 
the neighbour who is near refers to the heart ( qalb ); the neighbour who is a stranger is the r self 
in its natural state (al-nafs al-tabVif ; 5 and the companion by your side is the intellect ( c aql), 
which is guided by the sharfa. The wayfarer refers to the bodily members ( jawdrih ) which are 
in a state of obedience to God. This is the inner meaning of the verse. 

His words: 

[4:41] So how shall it be, when We bring forward from every community a witness, and We bring 
you as a witness against these? 

Sahl said: 

God, Exalted is He, has placed 360 angels in the service of each Muslim servant in accord- 
ance with the number of his veins. 6 When he wants to do something good they assist him in 
that, but if he wants to do something bad they chide him about it. If he acts upon any of those 
[intentions] they record that action for him until the Day of Judgement, when they show it 
to him, and apprehend him for it. 7 Then when he comes before God, Exalted is He, they will 
bear witness for him about the faithfulness of [his] obedience, and [against him] for the sins 
he committed. God said. Exalted is He, And every soul will come accompanied by a driver and 
a witness [50:21]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:47] ...Before We obliterate faces... 

This means that God turns them back from guidance and insight to their natural disposition 
(taV al-jibilla ). 8 


4 The context of this verse is a command for the believers to worship God and be kind to parents, near kindred, orphans 
and the needy as well as to neighbours. 

5 This is according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 35a, F638, f. 18a and F3488, f. 209b. The printed edition has simply nature 
(tabfa). By al-nafs al-tabi c i it is possible that Tustari is referring to what he elsewhere terms the nafs al-tab c as opposed 
to the nafs al-ruh, and the use of these terms will be seen later in the commentary. These terms are also discussed in IT, 
pp. xxxviiiff. 

6 Apparently the number of veins/arteries in the body was traditionally understood to be 360 (or some said 390). For 
example in the Rasa'il of the Ikhwan al-Safa 3 the body is compared to a kingdom in which there are 390 rivulets, 
corresponding to the veins and arteries. See Ikhwan al-Safa 3 , Rasd'il Ikhwan al-Safa D wa khullan al-wafa 3 (Beirut, 1957), 
vol. 3, p. 380-2; and Seyyed H. Nasr, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrines (London, 1978), p. 100. See also 
Ghazali, Kimiya 3 al-sa c adat, vol. 1, p. 42. On the Muslim discussions of the numerical symbolism of parts of the body, 
see Seyyed H. Nasr, Islamic Science : An Illustrated Study (London, 1976), pp. 162-4. 

7 Translating awqafuhu according to all three MSS (Z515, f. 35a, F638, f. 17a and F3488, f. 210a), instead of wafaquhu in 
the printed edition. 

8 There is some discrepancy among the MSS here with MSS Z515, f. 35b having their ‘natural disposition ( tab c al-jibilla), 
which is what we have translated, while F638, f. 18a has tab c al-khatiyya, ‘sinful disposition, and F3488, f. 210a has al-tab c 


54 


4 Al-Nisd’ 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:48] God forgives not that anything should be associated with Him. But He forgives other than 
that, to whomsoever He wills... 

He said: 

If no one has any grievance against him, and his sins are only between him and God, Exalted 
is He, indeed He forgives those sins, for He is the Magnanimous ( al-Jawad ), the Generous 
( al-Karim ). It has been related from the Prophet that he said, ‘A slave may be brought for- 
ward on the Day of Resurrection and directed to the Fire, but then he will say, “This is not in 
accordance with what I supposed [my outcome would be].” 9 Then God, Mighty and Majestic, 
will ask, “What was your opinion of Me?”to which he will reply, “That You would forgive me”, 
upon which, God, Mighty and Majestic, will say, “Truly I have forgiven you”, and He will direct 
him to Paradise.’ 10 
His words: 

[4:63] ...and say to them regarding their souls a penetrating word. 

That is, conveying from Me with your tongue and with the best expression the essence of what 
is in your heart.’ * 11 
His words: 

[4:76] Those who believe fight in the way of God, and those who disbelieve fight in the way of a 
false deity... 

He [Sahl] said: 

The believers are [with] God, adversaries against their lower selves, but the hypocrites are 
[with] their lower selves, adversaries against God, Mighty and Majestic is He. They hasten 
to question, and are not content with what God chooses for them. This is the way of Satan 
( tdghut ), for the lower self is the greatest of devils if the servant consorts with it because it will 
incite him to transgression. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:77] Say: ‘The enjoyment of this world is trifling...’ 

He [Sahl] was asked, ‘What is this world?’ To which he replied: 

This whole world consists of ignorance except for where knowledge is to be found. 12 All knowl- 
edge is a testimony against [the one who possesses it], except for that which is acted upon. All 
action is futile except for that which is done with sincerity ( ikhlds ), and sincerity is not achieved 
except through adherence to the Sunna. 

Then he said: 

Your world is your lower self ( nafs ). Thus, if you annihilate it, there will be no world for you. 13 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:81] ...So turn away from them, and put your trust in God... 

He was asked, ‘What is trust? ( tawakkul)V He replied: 

Trust is the submission of the body in servanthood, the attachment of the heart to the divine 
lordliness ( rububiyya ) and the disclaiming of all power ( hawl ) and strength ( quwwa ). 


al-jahala which might be translated as ‘foolish or licentious disposition or it could also be al-tab c al-jibilla without any 
tashdid being marked. The published edition has tab c al-jahala. 

9 lit.. ‘This is not in accordance with my opinion (ma kadha zanni)l 

10 The point being that his good opinion ( husn al-zann ) of God had saved him. On the spiritual function of good opinion, 
see above Tustans commentary on 2:241 and IT, pp. lii-liii. 

11 That is, the Revelation. 

12 lit. ‘save for the locus of knowledge’. What is meant is: ‘except for the people who have knowledge deposited in them’. 

13 That is, the world will no longer take you away from God. 


55 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Then he was asked: ‘What is the reality ( haqiqa ) of trust (tawakkul) in principle?’ He replied: 

At its root, the reality of trust is the realisation of God’s oneness ( tawhid ), while its branch is 
the knowledge of the Last Day [lit. knowledge of the Hour] ( ilm al-sda ); and through tranquil 
repose ( sukun ) in it [trust] there is visual beholding (mu c dyana). 

Then he said: 

Do not be anxious about trust, for truly it is a means of livelihood for those who possess it. 

He was asked, ‘Who are those who possess it?’ He replied: 

They are those who have been privileged with a special quality. 

Sahl was asked to clarify this further, and he said: 

Truly all the sciences are the lowest categories of worship (tdabbud). The sum of all worship is 
only the lowest category of scrupulous piety (ward). The sum of all renunciation ( zuhd ) is the 
lowest category of the manifestation of divine omnipotence ( zuhur al-qudra). Furthermore, 
the divine omnipotence does not become apparent to anyone except the one who has complete 
trust (mutawakkil) . Trust is not susceptible of any categorical definition, nor does it have a 
limit that would make it susceptible of comparison , 14 nor does it have an utmost degree that 
can be reached. 

Then he was asked, ‘Describe something of it to us’ and he replied: 

Trust has a thousand ranks, the first of which is the ability to walk on air . 15 

He was then asked, ‘How does the servant reach that level?’ He answered: 

The first thing is gnosis ( mdrifa ), then affirmation ( iqrar ), then the realisation of God’s oneness 
(tawhid), then submission (islam), then the excellence in faith (ihsan), then the committing 
of one’s affairs [to God] (tafwid), then trust (tawakkul), and finally the state of tranquil repose 
(sukun) in God, Mighty and Majestic is He, in every situation . 16 

And he added: 

Trust is not acceptable from anyone except one who is mindful of God (muttaqi). 

He was asked, ‘What is mindfulness of God?’ He replied: 

It is to refrain from all harm [to others] ( adha ). 17 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:85] ...Whoever intercedes with an evil intercession will receive a share of it... 

That is, a portion of it. This is because it [the evil intercession] obstructs [that person’s access 
to] God’s good pleasure. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:86] When you are offered a greeting, respond with a better one, or [at least] return it... 

This means that you should surpass the greeting that issued [from that person] by acting with 
sincere friendship (nash) for God’s sake, Exalted is He. The Prophet M said, ‘Peace (saldm) is 
one of the names of God which He made manifest on Earth, so spread it among yourselves .’ 18 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:88] ... When God Himself has cast them back because of what they earned?... 


14 lit. so that similitudes might be coined for it. In other words, it cannot be compared to anything or explained by any 
metaphor. 

15 This is another indication that Tustari did not hold much store by miracles or charismatic gifts ( karamat ). See IT, p. xx. 

16 It is worth keeping in mind that the expression sukun ila also has a sense of reliance upon. On ihsan, see IT, p. lviii, n 
265. 

17 See above the commentary on 3:64 regarding the importance of not harming others ( kaff al-adha ). 

18 Bukhari, Sahth, ‘Kitab Sifat al-salat’; TabaranI, al-Mu c jam al-kabir, vol. 10, p. 82. 


56 


4 Al-Nisa ' 


That is, He returned them to the state of ignorance of Him which was the natural constitution 
of their souls. 19 And the Prophet U also said: ‘Do not clean yourselves [after defecation] with 
bones or animal droppings, for these [undergo] a reversal’, meaning that these return from 
their former state to becoming the food of jinn. What, do you wish to guide him whom God 
has left to stray? Misguidance ( idled ) from God is His withdrawing His protection ( Hsma ) [of 
a person] from that which is forbidden, and His withdrawing His assistance ( maxima ) [from 
a person] in what He has commanded. 20 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:90] ...Or those who come to you with their breasts constricted ... 11 

That is, ‘They have become sick at heart because of fighting you and fighting their people, due 
to their love of safety, and their inclination towards their own well-being fafiya)’. This refers 
to the Banu Madlaj. 22 
His words: 

[4:105] ...so that you may judge between people by thatwhich God has shown you... 

That is, in accordance with the wisdom ( hikma ) that God, Exalted is He, has taught you within 
the Qur'an and the laws of Islam. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:117] What they pray to instead of Him are but females. 

That is, they [emit] sounds, 23 and they are of stone and iron. 

His words Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[4:121] ...And will find no refuge from it. 

That is, no way out. 

His words: 

[4:139] ...Do they desire power with them?... 

This refers to the hypocrites who were seeking power and protection from the Jews. Do you not 
[recall] the Prophet’s words H, ‘Nothing descended from the heavens mightier than certainty’? 24 
That is, there is nothing more indomitable or formidable. 25 
His words: 

[4:141] ...Did we not gain mastery over you?... 

That is, conquer and overcome you. 

His words: 

[4:142] The hypocrites try to deceive God, but it is He who causes them to be deceived... 

This means that He hastens the recompense for their [outwardly] showing faith, and [inwardly] 
keeping secret their disbelief, by withdrawing His protection and grace from them, and by 
augmenting their wealth and offspring, and granting them access to the immediate [pleasures 
of] this world. 26 But, their final destination is the Fire. This is what is meant by His words, [The 

19 lit. ‘to that to which their souls were naturally disposed’. 

20 On this aspect of Tustari’s doctrine, see above IC, p. 2 and n. 6, Tustari’s commentary on 2:3, and IT, pp. xxxiiiff. 

21 These are among those who are excluded from being subject to the command in the previous verse (4:89): slay them 
wherever you find them; and do not take any of them as a patron or as a helper. 

22 Reading ‘Banu Madlaj’, on the basis of MSS Z515, f. 37a, F638, f. 18b and F3488, f. 211a, instead of Banu Madraj in the 
printed edition. The Banu Madlaj were among the non-Muslim tribes to the south-west of Medina with whom the 
Prophet made a pact prior to the Battle of Badr. 

23 A reference to the sound that came from the hollowed out idols. 

24 Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 2, p. 169. 

25 In other words, there could be no refuge for them outside what was certain, i.e. the truth. 

26 Thereby lulling them into a false sense of well-being. Again this is an instance of istidraj , on which see Tustari’s commentary 
on 2:41, p. 20, n. 48, his commentary on 3:8, and p. 42, n. 10. 


57 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


hypocrites] try to deceive God, but it is He who causes them to be deceived. He meant by this 
the speed of delivering their recompense (jaza’) for what they perform and abstain from. This 
is as His saying. Nay, but you marvel while they engage in ridicule [37:12], by which He meant 
that He hastened their punishment for their persisting in denial [of the truth]. Thus were His 
words addressed in accordance with the name of their action. And indeed in [other] places He 
describes their being in a state of wonder ( c ajab); [for example,] in His words, [Say, 'It has been 
revealed to me that a company of jinn listened and said], “We have heard a wondrous Qur'an” 
[72:1]; and in Sura Qaf, Nay, but they [the disbelievers] think it strange [50:2]; and in Sura Sad: 
What an astonishing thing! [38:5]. So also [wonder] is mentioned in Sura Saffat: Nay but you 
marvel while they engage in ridicule [37:12], that is, you see their recompense as immense ( c azim ), 
And here He calls the immense recompense a marvel, for the one who marvels at something 
that has reached its utmost degree, and this is what is meant in His words, you marvel. 

It has been related that Shaqiq read [the Qubanic words] to Sharlh as ‘I marvel ( c ajibtu)’ to which 
Sharlh replied, ‘[It should be] you marvel (‘ajibta)’, for truly God does not marvel at anything. 
The only one who marvels is one who does not know.’ Then Shaqiq said, ‘I informed Ibrahim 
of this, and he said, “For sure, Sharlh is pleased with his own knowledge. However, Ibn Mas ud 
is more knowledgeable than him and he used to read it, I marvel with a damma (‘ajibtu).”’ 27 
[ 4 : 142 ] ...When they stand up to pray they do so lazily... 

This is one of the signs of the hypocrites, and by this they betray the trust (amana), which out- 
wardly they appear to have taken upon themselves. Know that to God, Exalted is He, belong 
the trusts of your hearing, sight, tongue, private parts, your outward self and your inner self, 
which He presented to you. If you do not safeguard them, you betray God and God does not 
love the treacherous [8:58]. 

Ibn Hayyan 28 related that he journeyed to Mecca and went to Sa c Id b. Jubayr and said to him, ‘I 
have come to you from Khurasan to ask you about the explanation of the words of the Prophet it, 
“The signs of a hypocrite are three: when he speaks, he lies; when he promises, he breaks his 
promise; and when he is entrusted with something, he is treacherous.” I do not see any of these 
within myself.’ Then Sa Id smiled and said, ‘The same thing occurred to my conscience that 
occurred to yours, so I went to ‘All b. Abi Talib and c Abd Allah Ibn ‘Abbas 4 = at the time of the 
afternoon nap, and I found them at the [Holy] House, so I asked them about the explanation 
for this hadith. They smiled and replied: 

We were also perplexed by what has perplexed you, so we went to the Prophet |§ at the 
time of the afternoon nap, and he gave us permission [to enter], so we mentioned this to 
him M, upon which he smiled and said, ‘Do you not uphold the testimony that there is 
no god but God?’ We replied, ‘Yes, we do.’ He said, ‘Have you gone back on that?’ We said, 
‘No, we have not.’ He said, ‘Indeed you have said it and confirmed it.’ Then he said, ‘Do 
you not uphold what you affirmed with regard to your belief in God, His angels, Books, 
messengers, Paradise, Hell and the Resurrection?’ We said, ‘Yes, as if we saw them with 
our own eyes.’ He |§ said, ‘This is a [great] achievement.’ Then he said M ‘Do you not pray 
and prostrate in prayer when you are alone?’ We replied, ‘Yes’. He said, ‘That is true fidelity 
without a trace of treachery.’ 


27 This is an example of the debates which occurred in the science of the variant readings ( qira'a ) of the Qur'an, which 
are often cited in exoteric commentaries on the Qur'an, and on which independent works have been written, such as 
the Mu c jam al-qira'at al-Qur'aniyya of Ahmad Mukhtar TJmar and c Abd al- c Al Mukarram (Cairo, 1997), in which this 
disagreement between the two scholars of qird'a, Shaqiq and Sharlh, is recorded, vol. 4, p. 197. 

28 Corrected from Abu Hibban on the basis of MSS Z515, f. 27b and MSF638, f. 19a. MS F3488 has Abu Hayyan. 


58 


4 Al-Nisd' 


Sahl said: 

Truly, certainty ( yaqln ) may be compared to mainstays ( awtad ) for the hearts of the mystics 
farifun), and the souls of the yearning (mushtdqun), just as the mountains of the world along 
with Mount Qaf, are the mainstays of the two earths ( c ardin ), and the backbone of the worlds. 29 
However, He made your heart even stronger, for He said, Exalted is He: ‘Had We sent this 
Qur'an down upon a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbled, rent asunder by the fear 
of God [59:21]. Indeed, I sent it down to their hearts that they may preserve it and upon you 
as a command. You will not be harmed by keeping it [the Quran] within you, because of My 
protection, benevolence and My watching over you.’ 

Then he [Sahl] said: 

The intellects ( c uqul ) of believers end up journeying to the Throne, where they are preserved 
and filled with the finest subtleties ( zara'if) of His wisdom and diverse [manifestations] of His 
beneficence (birr) . The intellects of the hypocrites on the other hand, journey until they reach 
[the threshold], and covet what is in the unseen, but are cast back rejected with heads bowed 
down ( munkasa ). And he whom God sends astray, you will never find for him a way [4:88, 143]. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[4:171] O People of the Scripture do not go to excess in your religion... 

That is, do not exceed the limits in your religion through innovations ( bidaf , or by deviating 
from the truth, which is the Book, the Sunna and consensus ( ijmcb ), by inclining towards the 
desire of your lower selves. 

And he [Sahl] said: 

The backbone ( qiwam ) of religion and this world is in three things: knowledge ( ‘ilm ), propriety 
(1 adab ) and initiative ( mubddara ). However, the ruin of religion and this world comes from 
three things: ignorance (jahl ), folly ( khurq ) and laziness ( kasal ). 

On another occasion, I heard him say: 

There are four things which are among the buttresses ( datd'im ) of the religion: to uphold the 
truth even against your own self and others; to renounce falsehood in yourself or others; to 
love the people who are obedient to God and to detest those who disobey Him. 



29 Mount Qaf is the name of a mountain range which, according to Muslim cosmology, surrounds the earth. In mystical 
literature it came also to symbolise the end of the spiritual journey, as for example, in the epic poem of Farid al-DIn 
c Attar, Mantiq al-tayr, and the mystical-philosophical treatise of Shihab al-DIn Yahya Suhrawardi, Qissat al-ghurbat 
al-gharbiyya, in Oeuvres philosophiques et mystiques , ed. H. Corbin (Tehran/Paris, 1952-77), vol. 2. See M. Streck [A. 
Miguel], ‘Kaf’ in EI2, vol. iv, pp. 400-2. 


59 


5 Al-MaTda 


He was asked about His words, Exalted is He: 

[5:2] ...Help one another to righteousness and mindfulness of God... 

He said: 

Righteousness (birr) is obedience to God and being on ones guard against disobedience. 

His words, Exalted is He, 

[5:3] ...Yet fear them not, but fear Me... 

That is, ‘Do not fear the disbelievers with regard to obeying Me, but fear Me with regard to 
following them.’ 

Then he said: 

The weakest person is he who fears those who can neither benefit him nor harm him. However, 
the One in whose hand is the power to benefit and harm addresses him with His words, Yet 
fear them not, but fear Me. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[5:5] This day the good things are permitted to you... 

[Sahl] said: 

The good things refer to the provision which is lawful. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[5:6] When you prepare for prayer, wash your faces... 

[Sahl] said: 

Purification consists of four things: purity of the source of food, truthfulness of the tongue, 
avoidance of all sins, and the humility in one’s innermost secret (sirr). In turn, each one of 
these four corresponds to the purification of the outer members of the body. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[5:6] ...But He wishes to purify you... 

That is, to purify your state, your character and your actions, so that you return to Him in a 
state of true poverty ( haqiqat al-faqr ) without being attached to any [secondary] cause. 
Purification is of seven kinds: the purification of knowledge from ignorance, the purification 
of remembrance from forgetfulness, the purification of obedience from disobedience, the 
purification of certainty from doubt, the purification of the intellect from foolishness, the 
purification of opinion from slander, and the purification of faith from anything which is alien 
to it . 1 Furthermore, each punishment constitutes a kind of purification, except the punishment 
of the heart, which is hardness . 2 
[Concerning] His words, Exalted is He: 

[5:23] Two men among those who feared, whom God had blessed, said... 

1 A similar definition appears in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya \ vol. 10, p. 208, where only three kinds of purification are 
mentioned. 

2 This is also cited in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya‘ i vol. 10, p. 208. 


60 


5 Al-Ma’ida 


Sahl was asked, ‘What was that blessing ( ni c ma)V He replied: 

God blessed them with fear ( khawf) and vigilance ( muraqaba ), because fear, concern ( hamm ) 
and sorrow ( huzn ) increase one’s good deeds, whereas exuberance ( ashar ) and arrogance 
( batar ) increase one’s misdeeds. 

His words: 

[5:54] ...Stern towards the disbelievers ... 3 

That is, tough (ghaliza ) on them. 

His words: 

[5:55] Your patron is God only, and His Messenger, and the believers... 

[Sahl] said: 

The patronage ( wilaya ) 4 of God is [His] choosing ( ikhtiydr ) for whomever He has taken under 
His patronage. Then He informed the Messenger that He is the Patron of the believers. Thus 
it became incumbent upon him to befriend those who had allied themselves to God, Exalted 
is He, and those who believed. Then He said: 

[5:56] As to those who ally themselves with God, His Messenger and the believers, it is the party of 
God that is certainly triumphant. 

That is, they are triumphant in vanquishing the desire of their lower selves. 

His words: 

[5:64] Truly God’s hands are extended wide. He expends however He wills... 

[Sahl] said: 

This means that His rule, command and prohibition are operative in His dominion. 

His words: 

[5:66] And had they observed the Torah and the Gospel and what was revealed to them from their 
Lord, they would surely have received nourishment from above them and from beneath their feet. . . 
That is, if they acted according to what God revealed to Muhammad M, and if you acted according 
to it, you would attain this rank, just as those who acted according to it attained it. Furthermore, 
if you had turned to the Provider ( al-Razzdq ), your provision would have been taken care of. 5 
Then he said: 

You are not greater than c Amr b. Tayth, who would march with one thousand horsemen and 
one thousand foot soldiers in his charge, each one holding a mace of gold and silver. Eventually 
it came to pass that he was imprisoned in a house after being handed over to the Caliph, who 
subsequently deprived him of food and drink. When his door was opened they found him 
dead with his mouth full of straw and clay due to his intense hunger. 6 Then he [the Caliph] said, 
‘Truly I have advised you and truly I am among those who give you good counsel.’ 

It was related by Malik b. Dinar, from Hammad b. Salma and Hammad b. Yazld, that these two 
came to visit Rabfa, and mentioned something concerning the matters of this world. So Rabi a 
said, ‘You are talking about this world a lot. I think you must be hungry, so if you are hungry 


3 These words are part of a warning from God to the believers that if they go back on their faith God will soon replace 
them with people whom He loves and who love Him, who are humble towards the believers, stern towards the disbelievers 
and who strive in Gods way without fearing anyone’s reproach... [ 5:54]. 

4 As stated above, IC, p. 2, n. 5, and p. 3, n. 14, wilaya can also mean friendship, and hence the awliyd 3 may be translated 
as ‘friends [of God]’. 

5 lit. ‘you would have been spared the trouble of storing up, or maintaining, provisions [for yourself].’ 

6 'Amr b. Layth (d. 265/879) was the second ruler of the Saffarid dynasty, founded in the Iranian province of Sistan by 
c Amr’s elder brother Ya'qub b. Layth (d. 253/867), the dynasty taking its name from the latter’s trade of coppersmith 
(saffar). The Saffarid empire soon spread to include Khurasan and Fars. c Amr tried to expand their empire by invading 
Transoxiana, but was defeated by the Samanid ruler, Isma'Il b. Ahmad (d. 279/892), who had 'Amr sent to the Caliph 
in Baghdad. There he was imprisoned and starved to death. 


6l 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


go over to that pot with the flour and make yourselves whatever takes your fancy.’ Then, one of 
those who were with her remarked, ‘If only we had some garlic.’ Hammad continued, ‘Then I 
saw Rabi a’s lips moving and she had not even finished before a bird came with a clove of garlic 
in its beak which it cast down and then flew off. 7 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[5:67] ...God will protect you from people... 

[Sahl] was asked, ‘What is this protection (' : isma)V He replied: 

God, Exalted is He, promised him [the Prophet] that He would not put him through trials, as 
He had the rest of the prophets M 0 , such as Abraham with the fire, Ishmael with the sacrifice, 
and others as well. Since he [Muhammad] was not aware of what would happen to him — as 
He has related, Nor do I know what will he done with me or with you [46:9] — God, Exalted is 
He, informed him that He would protect him from people. 

His words: 

[5:83] And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflow 
with tears because of the truth that they recognise... 

[Sahl] said: 

These were the priests and monks from whom people would seek blessings and anointment due 
to their knowledge of the religion. They came to the Prophet #g, and the Quran was recited for 
them. They were deeply moved by it so that their eyes overflowed [with tears] , and they were 
not haughty, due to God’s protecting them from pride. Subsequently, they entered His religion 
because of the knowledge of God which He had deposited within them. 

Then he said: 

The corruption of religion is in three things: when kings commit excess [es] and [follow] their 
lusts; when the scholars issue rulings based on concessions; and when the Qur an reciters wor- 
ship without knowledge. Truly, people need the learned ulamcf ) for their life in this world 
and the Hereafter. Indeed, it was related by Jabir b. c Abd Allah 4 ® from the Prophet H that he 
said: ‘The people of Paradise need the learned just as much as the people need them in this 
world. They visit their Lord every Friday and it is said to them: “Desire anything you want”, 
after which they head for the scholars, who tell them, “Desire such and such a thing”, so they 
desire that thing.’ 8 
His words: 

[5:109] The Day when God will assemble all the messengers and ask, ‘What response did you re- 
ceive?’ They will say, ‘We have no knowledge...’ 

That is, ‘We do not possess knowledge of the faith in You that their hearts contained, nor 
knowledge of whatever else was [in their hearts] . Our knowledge is only of what they outwardly 
affirmed on their tongues. ...You, only You are the Knower of things unseen.’ 

[Sahl] was asked, ‘Will He ask them about what was really in the hearts of [their] communities?’ 
He replied: 

No, He only directed the question to them concerning their outward reality, which is in fact 
only an expression of their inner reality. They [the prophets] responded by indicating that 
[only He] possesses knowledge [of the answer] . It could also mean, ‘We have no knowledge 
of the meaning of your question, since You already have knowledge of our reply — You, only 
You, are the Knower of things unseen.’ 


7 A similar story involving a bird bringing an onion required for the stew, is related in c Attar s Tadhkirat al-awliya\ pp. 
77-8. The anecdote is translated by Margaret Smith in RabFa the Mystic and her Fellow Saints in Islam (Cambridge, 1984), 
P- 34- 

8 This hadith is listed in Isma c Il b. Muhammad al- c Ajluni, Kashf al-khafa' wa muzil al-ilbas c amma ishtahara min al-ahadith 
c ala alsinat al-nas (Beirut, 1979), vol. 1, p. 263; Ahmad al- c Asqalani, Lisan al-mizan (Beirut, 1971), vol. 5, p. 15, as a fabricated 
hadith. 


62 


5 Al-Maida 


His words: 

[ 5 : 116 ] ...You know what is in my self, though I do not know what is in Your Self ... 9 

That is, ‘I do not know the hidden purport of Your question, while You have knowledge of it.’ 10 
It is also possible that what is implied is: ‘You know what is in my human soul, * 11 and I do not 
know the nature of the deposit ( mustawdaf [from] within Yourself that is in my innermost 
secret ( sirr ). This is because Your secret is between You and it [my innermost secret], and no 
one can have knowledge of it besides You.’ It [that divine deposit] is the eye through which 
[the servant] sees God, the ear by which he hears God, and the tongue by which he calls Him. 
The evidence for it is in His words, Exalted is He, concerning the hypocrites, Deaf dumb and 
blind [2:18]. This is because they do not have these deposits. But God knows best. 



9 These words are part of the colloquy between God and Jesus. God asks Jesus if he had said to mankind that they should 
take him and his mother as gods besides Him. It is Jesus’ answer that is the subject of Tustari’s interpretation. 

10 i.e. ‘You have knowledge of what I said, so there must be some other reason for Your asking the question.’ 

11 That is, according to all three MSS (Z515, f. 30b, F638, f. 20b and F3488, f. 214b) which have ft nafsi al-bashariyya , instead 
of ft sirrl in the printed edition. 


63 


6 Al-An c am 


He was asked about the words: 

[6:52] Do not drive away those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, desiring His coun- 
tenance... 

That is, they desire ( aradu ) the countenance of God and His good pleasure and they are not 
absent from Him for a moment. 

Then he said: 

The ‘most ascetic’ ( azhad )* of people are those who have the purest source of food; the most 
devout ( a c bad ) of people are those who are most earnest in their effort to uphold His com- 
mandments and prohibitions; and the most beloved ( ahabb ) of them to God are those who 
are the sincerest ( ansahuhum ) towards His creatures. 1 2 

He was asked about life. . . He said, ‘He who wastes his life. . .’ 3 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:54] ...Your Lord has prescribed for Himself mercy. Truly, whoever of you does evil in ignorance, 

and repents thereafter and makes amends — truly He is Forgiving, Merciful. 

It has been reported that God, Exalted is He, revealed to David $40, ‘O David, whoever knows Me, 
desires Me; 4 whoever desires Me, loves Me; whoever loves Me, seeks Me out; whoever seeks Me 
out, finds Me; and whoever finds Me, preserves Me [in his heart] ( hafizani)\ David $40 replied 
[by asking], ‘O my Lord! Where can I find You when I wish to seek you out?’ He said, ‘With 
those whose hearts are broken from the fear of Me.’ 5 David then said, ‘O my Lord! I approached 
the doctors among Your servants for treatment, but they all directed me to You — Wretched 
are those who despair of Your mercy! Is there a chance of my being worthy of being cured by 
You?’ God, Mighty and Majestic is He, asked him, ‘Did all those you approached guide You to 
Me?’ He answered, ‘Yes’, and God said, ‘Then go and give the sinners good tidings, and give 
warning to the veracious ( siddiqun ).’ David was baffled and said, ‘Have I misunderstood or 
not?’ He replied, ‘You are not mistaken.’ David asked, ‘How is that?’ He said: ‘Give the sinners 
the good tidings that I am forgiving (ghafur ) and warn the veracious ( siddiqun ) that I am 
jealous (ghayur ).’ 6 

1 Azhad being the superlative of zahid which is often translated as ascetic’, though it means more precisely one who 
renounces the world’ ‘The most renunciant’ would not quite be idiomatic here. On the term zuhd and its translation 
see above IT, p. xlvi, n. 201. 

2 The verbal root n-s-h combines the meanings of being sincere and giving good advice, so this implies those who give 
good and sincere advice to God’s creatures. 

3 This appears to be incomplete in the printed edition and all the manuscripts. 

4 The Arabic here is: man c arafani aradanl. The former verb ( c arafa ) could also have the meaning ‘has gnosis of’, or ‘rec- 
ognises’ or ‘acknowledges’ Me, while the second verb ( arada ) could also imply ‘aspires towards’ God. 

5 This tradition appears in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 4, pp. 31-2 and in the Sifat al-safwa of Abd al-Rahman b. al- 
Jawzi [Ibn al-Jawzi] (Beirut, 1979), vol. 2, p. 293. In the Hilya , vol. 2, p. 364, God is asked the same question by Moses. 
The tradition also appears in Ghazall’s Kimiya' al-sa c adat, vol. 1, p. 421, where Moses prays: ‘O Lord! Where shall I seek 
Thee?’ and God replies: ‘With the broken-hearted’ (without ‘from the fear of Me’). 

6 According to Sufi tradition there are two kinds of jealousy ( ghayra ) on the part of God towards His lovers, mystics, and 
veracious servants. The first kind of jealousy arises if they should ever turn their attention to any other than Him; and 


64 


6 Al-Arfam 


He [Sahl] was asked, ‘Who are veracious?’ He replied: 

They are those who combat their lower selves through the glorification ( tasbih ) and venera- 
tion ( taqdis ) [of God]. Furthermore, they are those who keep their bodily limbs and senses in 
check. Hence, they become veracious in speech and action, 7 veracious outwardly and inwardly, 
veracious in their involvement in anything and likewise in their disengagement from anything. 
Consequently, their place of return is an abode of truth r in the lofty rank of truth 18 with the 
All-Powerful King. 9 

His words, Transcendent and Exalted is He: 

[6:69] ...but it is a reminder, so that they may be mindful of God 10 

[Concerning these words] he said: 

Truly God, Exalted is He, placed on the shoulders of His friends ( awliya the duty of reminding 
His servants, just as He placed upon the shoulders of the prophets (may God’s blessings be upon 
them all) the duty of conveying [the Message]. Thus, it is incumbent upon the friends of God 
to guide [people] to Him, and if they desist from doing so they are falling short of their duty. 

It was put to him, ‘Indeed, we have seen many who desist from doing this.’ He replied: 

They only hold back from doing it when there is a lack of need for it, just as is the case with the 
commanding of what is right (amr bi’l-mdruf) and the forbidding of what is wrong (nahy‘an 
al-munkar). There was a man with us in Basra who had a high [spiritual] station, and it was 
an imperative obligation on him that at a certain time he should do this [guide people]. When 
he set out to accomplish [this task] another man said to him, ‘Truly God most High ordered 
me to what you are resolved to do, and has exempted you from [that duty].’ So he returned 
home praising God, Exalted is He, for the goodness of that exemption. But God knows best. 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[6:76] When the night descended upon him, he saw a star and said, ‘This is my Lord...’ 

The whole of this speech is a form of allusion (taTid) for the benefit of his people when their 
hearts are in a state of bewilderment, for he [Abraham] had already been granted right guidance 
(rushd) before [21:51], just as He said: And so We showed Abraham the kingdom of the heavens 
and the earth. [675] 11 

He was asked about the meaning of His words: 

[6:77] ...If my Lord does not guide me...? 


the second is a protective jealousy, which shields their innermost secret or their love for Him from any unworthy or 
uninitiated person, or even from their own lower selves. This latter form of jealousy also has the function of protecting 
the mystics from complacency, or from lassitude. For a discussion of divine jealousy in Sufi doctrine, see A. Keeler, Sufi 
Hermeneutics, pp 196-7; 233; 297-8. 

7 lit. ‘their speech and acts become veracity’. 

8 The words qadam sidq, lit. ‘a foot of veracity or truth’ were added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 41b, F638, f. 20b, 
F3488, f. 215b. 

9 The words, maq c adi sidqin c inda Malikin muqtadarin are mentioned in 54:55, where they are translated by both Yusuf 
A. 1 I and Muhammad Asad as: ‘In an Assembly of Truth in the presence of a Sovereign Omnipotent’; while qadami sidqin 
is mentioned in 10:2 where it is translated as: *. . .the lofty rank of truth. . However, in the Tafsir al-Jaldlayn, the words 
qadami sidqin are glossed with a different meaning of a preceding [or pre-existing] promise, i.e. understanding qadam 
in its other meaning. 

10 According to the exoteric commentaries, the verse from which these words are taken and the preceding verse [6:68] 
concern a warning to believers that they should not sit and converse with those who mock God’s signs. Those who are 
mindful (or fully aware) of God will not be accountable for such people; this is merely a reminder to them so that they 
should be wary of being involved in discourse with these people. 

11 Probably, the lesson here is that although believers will from time to time experience bewilderment, they should be 
aware that it will pass, since they have previously been guided and will find guidance again. In the case of the prophet 
Abraham, he had been guided as a child, then later called the star, the moon and the sun in turn his lord, but then 
realised that If my Lord does not guide me I shall surely be one of the folk who have gone astray [6:77], on which Tustari 
comments next. 


65 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

It means: If my Lord does not continue to guide me I shall be one of the folk who go astray. 12 

Then he said: 

The religion of Abraham SS® was generosity ( sakhawa ), and [a state of] freedom ( tabarrl ) from 
everything save God, Exalted is He. Do you not see how when the angel Gabriel SKB asked 
him, ‘Do you need anything?’ He replied, ‘From you, no.’ He did not depend on anyone save 
Him, in any situation. 13 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:98] ...Then gave you a dwelling place and a repository... 

A dwelling place, that is, in the wombs of women, and a repository, that is, as a drop in the loins 
of Adam $ 40 . 

His words: 

[6:120] And avoid committing sin, whether openly or in secret... 

That is, give up the transgressions of the body, along with the desire for committing them within 
your heart, and [give up] persisting in doing them. 

His words: 

[6:125] When God wishes to guide someone, He expands their breast to Islam... 

Sahl said: 

Truly God has distinguished between the one who seeks (murid) and the one who is [divinely] 
sought ( murad ), even though they are both from Him ( min Hndihi). 14 But He simply wanted 
to distinguish the elite ( khusus ) from the generality ( c umum ), and so He singled out the one 
who is sought (murad) in this siira and others. 15 He also mentioned the one who seeks (murid), 
representing the generality, in this siira in His words, Exalted is He: Do not drive away those who 
call upon their Lord morning and evening, seeking His countenance [6:52]. 16 This is the servant’s 
being intent (qasd) upon God in his every moment of activity and stillness (ft harakatihi wa 
sukunihi), 17 just as He also said: and those who hearken to their Lord and maintain the prayer. . . 
[42:38] . Thus, whoever finds that he has the state of both the seeker and the sought, that is due 
to a grace (fad 1) from God to him. Do you not see how He has brought them together in His 
words, Exalted is He: Whatever grace you have, it is from God [16:53]? 

12 In this comment and the previous one, Tustarl appears to be following the way of many commentators who did not 
believe that Abraham could have actually mistaken the star, the moon and the sun for his Lord. On this issue in the 
exegesis on 6:76-80, see Norman Calder, ‘Tafslr from Tabari to Ibn Kathir” in G. R. Hawting and A. K. Shareef, eds., 
Approaches to the Qur'an (London and New York, 1993), pp. 101-40; and Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, pp. 74-9. On the 
doctrine of the prophets’ (and in Shfism, the Imams’) immunity from sin, see W. Madelung, ‘Tsma, El 2 , vol. v, pp. 182-5. 

13 According to tradition, this exchange between Gabriel and Abraham took place when Abraham had been cast into the 
fire by his people (i.e. Nimrod and his followers). See above, p. 32, n. 110. 

14 That is, both states, or conditions, are from Him. This topic has probably arisen because of the word yuridu (He wants 
or wishes) used in the verse; the murad is the one who is desired [by God]. This is an example of the kind of Sufi inter- 
pretation that arises from what Bowering has termed a ‘Qur’anic keynote’, a ‘word or phrase of a particular verse which 
strikes the mind of the commentator’ and ‘is taken up as the focal point of the interpretation. See Mystical Vision, p. 136 
and IT, above p. xxix. 

15 See Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 232 for a discussion of Tustari’s use of the terms murid and murad. 

16 Here the wanting is on the part of the believers who ‘seek’ or desire God’s countenance: yuriduna, therefore Tustari 
shows it to be a reference to those who are murids. Many Sufis have defined the difference between the murid and 
murad, in their treatises. For example, KalabadhI defines the murid as ‘the man whose toiling ( ijtihad ) preceded his 
unveilings (kushuf) , , whilst the murad is ‘he whose unveilings preceded his toiling.’ See Kitab al-Ta c arruf, p. 107; English 
trans. Arberry, pp. 155-6, with a slight modification. Qushayri, in his Risala, p. 438, states that, according to the Sufis, 
the murid is a novice ( mubtadi '), whereas the murad is an adept ( muntahin ) and he goes on to observe that God’s way 
with His seekers differs: ‘most have to go through struggles and trials before they are brought to illumination, whereas 
some are given unveiling at the beginning, attaining to that which others do not reach even through their toiling. These 
latter nevertheless return from these graces to complete the disciplinary practices that they had passed by.’ 

17 This being a literal translation. However, it might simply be understood as: ‘in everything he does’. 


66 


6 Al-Arfam 


He was asked, ‘Why are they [murid and murad] separated then?’ He said: 

The seeker who makes an effort to direct himself towards ( qasd ) God, Exalted is He, and to 
worship Him, and seeks the way to Him, is still in the state of seeking ( talab ). As for the sought, 
it refers to the establishment of worship for him by God, Exalted is He. 18 
Man has within himself that which [shows him] to be both a seeker (murid) and one who is 
sought (murad). At one time, r he enters into his acts of obedience [applying to them] struggle 
(mukabada) and striving (mujahada), and this is [when he is] at the level of the seeker (murid), 
when he maybe stirred [into action] (tuhayyijahu) by the inducement of hope (raghba), or 
by fear (rahba). Then at another time 1 , 19 he finds himself carried through those acts without 
effort (taklif) or striving (jahd), 20 [and this is] a solicitude from God, Exalted is He, towards 
him. 21 Then after that, he will move on to the highest stations (maqamat) and most elevated 
ranks (darajat). 

[At this point] he was asked about the meaning of the stations (maqamat), and he replied: 

They are mentioned in the Book of God, Exalted is He, in the story about the angels, And there 
is not one of us but [ that he] has a known station [37:164] . He has also said, All shall have degrees 
according to that which they have done [6:132]. 

Regarding the characteristic of the seeker (murid), he said: 

The occupation of the seeker is the performance of what is obligatory, seeking forgiveness for 
sins committed, and seeking safety (saldma) from people. 

Sahl said: 

Truly, God, Mighty and Majestic is He, looks at the hearts and the hearts are with Him; those 
that He finds to be the humblest towards Him, He selects for what He wishes. Then after that, 
come those [hearts] that are the quickest in turning back [to Him] . These are the two qualities 
[of hearts]. 

And he said: 

Whenever God looks upon a heart and sees within it concern [or desire, hamm] for this world, 
He abhors it, and this abhorrence (maqt) is manifested through His abandoning it (tark) [the 
heart] along with [that persons] soul. 22 The heart is not owned by anyone except God most 
High, and it does not obey anyone except Him. So, if you are mindful [of] it, deposit your 
secret with God, for if you entrust it to anyone besides God, Mighty and Majestic is He, that 
person will divulge it. 

His words: 

[6:127] Theirs shall be the abode of peace with their Lord... 

He said: 

That is, there he will be safe from the anxieties (hawdjis) of his self and the whisperings (wasawis) 
of his enemy. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:129] So, We let some evildoers have power over others because of what they were earning. 


18 QushayrI appears to have alluded to this state in his Latcfif al-isharat in the context of his commentary on 2:3. See 
Qushayri, LataHf al-isharat, pp. 56-7. The passage is discussed in A. Keeler, ‘Sufi tafsir as a Mirror: QushayrI the murshid 
in his Lata^if al-isharat’, pp. 4-5. 

19 The addition is made with reference to all three MSS: Z515, f. 42b, F638, f. 21a and F3488, f. 216b. 

20 lit. ‘he finds or experiences that which carries him ( yahmiluhu ) through those acts’. Interestingly, MaybudI equates the 
position of murid with ‘bearing’ ( mutahammil ), whereas he describes the state of the murad as ‘being borne’ ( mahmul ). 
See MaybudI, Kashf al-asrar, vol. 3, pp. 730-1. See also, Qushayri, Lata^if al-isharat, vol. 2, p. 406. This doctrine is ex- 
plained in A. Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, pp. 260-1. 

21 Compare with the passage above in Tustarl’s commentary on 2:40 regarding different levels of certainty ( yaqin ). 

22 On abandonment by God, see above Tustarl’s commentary on 3:160, also the latter part of his commentary on 2:30. 


67 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


That is, God, Exalted is He, takes revenge on a wrongdoer by means of another wrongdoer, and 
then He Himself takes revenge on them. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:147] If they deny you, say, ‘Your Lord has all-encompassing mercy...’ 

Sahl said: 

It was reported from the Messenger of God f|, ‘Make whoever turns his back on you desirous 
of Me, for anyone who is desirous of Me is actually desirous of you, no other. Furthermore, 
give them hope of [My] mercy and do not cut your heart off from them — say, “Your Lord has 
all-encompassing mercy.’” 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:151] ...Do not draw near any acts of lewdness, whether openly or in secret... 

Whether openly refers to that which it has been forbidden to do with the external bodily members. 
Or in secret means the persistence ( isrdr ) in committing that act, and this is of two kinds: the 
first is that a person commits a sin and persists in committing it; the other is that he persists 
in sin through desiring it in his heart, but he is not able to do it when he finds the opportunity 
because of a weakness in his bodily members, even though he is intent upon doing it. This is 
one of the most serious forms of persistence. 

Then Sahl said: 

Whoever eats what is permissible ( haled ) with gluttony is persistent ( musirr ), and whoever 
preoccupies himself with what the morrow may bring before the morrow arrives is persistent. 
He was asked about the prophets Ssi, regarding whether they thought about that which did not 
concern them. He replied: 

An act with their bodily members was allowed to them, considering that they repented to God, 
Exalted is He, afterwards, let alone a mere thought. 

He was asked, ‘Is there a form of worship for the heart, which God requires of it, other than that 
which is performed by the bodily members?’ He replied, ‘Yes, it is the tranquil repose ( sukun ) of 
the heart [in God].’ 23 Then he was asked, ‘Is such tranquil repose [in God] obligatory ( fard ) 24 or the 
knowledge by which it is attained?’ He answered, ‘It is a [kind of] knowledge, which I am calling 
tranquil repose, and that tranquil repose [in God] leads to certainty ( yaqin ). Furthermore, tranquil 
repose accompanied with certainty is an obligation [farida ).’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:152] ...And if you speak, be just... 

He said: 

The people of veracity [sidq) speak in four ways: they speak in God, through God, for God or 
with God. There are other people who speak to themselves and for themselves, and so they are 
preserved from the evil of speech. Yet other people speak about others and forget themselves, 25 
and so they innovate and go astray. Wretched is that which they have produced for themselves! 
So abandon speech for knowledge, and then only speak when it is necessary, and you will be 
preserved from the ills of speech. What is meant [by ‘when it is necessary’] is that you should 
not speak unless you are afraid that you will otherwise fall into sin. 


23 As was seen above (4:81 and p. 56, n. 16), the word sukun has a number of different meanings in Tustari’s commentary. 
Here it seems to mean a tranquil repose or acquiescence [in God], or serenity [with Him]. 

24 All the MSS (Z515, f. 43b, F638, f. 21b and F3488, f. 217b), clearly have/ard rather than gharad in the printed edition, and 
we may note that the word farida is used in the Tristan s response to this question. 

25 That is, they are busy criticising others without attending to the faults in themselves, as is explained in the saying of 
Rabf b. Khuthaym which follows. 


68 


6 Al-Arfam 


Then he said: 

Whoever makes a [false] assumption ( zann ) will be deprived of certainty, 26 and whoever speaks 
about that which does not concern him will be deprived of veracity. Furthermore, whoever 
occupies his bodily members for other than the sake of God, Exalted is He, will be deprived of 
scrupulous piety ( ward ). If a servant is deprived of these three he is ruined. Furthermore, he 
will be set down in the records as being among the enemies [of God]. 

Truly, it was related from al-Rabi b. Khuthaym, may God have mercy on him, That no one 
ever heard him speak about matters of the world ( amr al-dunya ). Someone asked him ‘Why 
do you not mention people ( al-nds ), may God have mercy on you?’ 127 He replied, ‘I am not 
satisfied with myself to the extent that I should be done with censuring myself, and turn to the 
the censure ( dhamm ) of others. [Yet people] fear God with regard to the sins of His servants, 
and leap into their own sins.’ 28 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[6:153] And that this is My straight path (sirat)... 

He [Sahl] said: 

r The path (sirat) is 1 the straight way ( tariq mustaqim), and it is that which does not belong r to 
the self which holds a share ( hazz . ) or design ( murad ). 29 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:159] As for those who have divided their religion and broken up into factions... 

He [Sahl] said: 

They are 130 the people of whims (ahwd) and innovations ( bidd ) in religion. For them there is 
no form of repentance. Thus, has it been related from the Prophet S that he said, ‘For every 
sin there is a form of repentance except for that of the people of whims and innovations, for 
truly I disown them just as they disown me, and God, Mighty and Majestic is He, has excluded 
them from repentance ( tawba ).’ 31 That is, He has made the way to repentance difficult for them. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[6:165] • • ■ Surely your Lord is swift in punishment, and surely He is Forgiving, Merciful. 

He [Sahl] said: 

This refers to the punishment of the heart which is a cover and veil, so that it [the heart] inclines 
to that which is other than Him. Furthermore, whenever God looks upon the heart of a servant 
and finds there that which is other than Him, He empowers his enemy over him. However, He 
is most forgiving to the one who repents for what he has done. 

No harm ( madar ) can be considered a punishment, because it [acts as] a purification and an 
expiation ( kaffara ), except for hardness (qaswa) of the heart, for that in itself is a punishment. 
External punishments are a torment ( c adhab ), but the punishments of the heart have different 


26 The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition has added the words zann al-su' following after zann, on the basis of 
Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 10, p. 196. However this addition does not conform to any of the MSS. 

27 The section in brackets is added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 44a, F638, f. 21b and F3488, f. 2i7b-2i8a. 

28 Referring back to those who criticise others instead of correcting themselves, and those who busy themselves with 
what is not their concern, also mentioned above. This tradition is cited in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 9, p. 52, and 
in BayhaqI, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 5, p. 312, and vol. 6, p. 87, with the difference that in the Hilyat al-awliyd\ vol. 9, p. 52 
and in Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 6, p. 57, the tradition ends with the words ‘they feel safe ( aminu ) regarding their own [sins]’. 
In Shucab vol. 5, p. 312, however, only the first part of the tradition is cited. 

29 That is, the lower self, which wants to claim something (or everything) for itself. The term hazz could also be translated 
as ‘pleasure’, but Tustari uses the pair of terms, hazz and murad below in the sense, perhaps, of the self having its own 
‘vested interest’ in the heart. 

30 The section in brackets is added on the basis of MS Z515, f. 44a, F638, f. 21b and F3488, f. 218a. This addition means that verse 
159 precedes verse 165, whereas in the printed addition it follows it. 

31 TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usiil, vol. 2, p. 245; Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 4, p. 138. 


69 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


levels , 32 for the lower self holds a share and a design with regard to the heart . 33 [As for the one 
whose] heart is veiled, God empowers his enemy over him. His heart does not orbit the celestial 
dominions ( malakut ), nor does the divine omnipotence ( qudra ) manifest itself to him, nor 
does he witness ( yushahid ) God. But as for the one whose heart is hardened, God leaves him 
to his own devices and means. Truly the tendency of the heart maybe compared to the tongue; 
when a person speaks, he can speak of only one thing [at a time]. Similarly if a heart is full of 
concern [for something] there is no room for anything along with that. But God knows best. 



32 This section had to be rearranged on the basis of the MSS (Z515, f. 44b, F638, f. 22a and F3488, ff. 218a and b). Note that 
F638 has mathal al-qalb instead of mathal mayl al-qalb. 

33 See above, p. 69, n. 29. 


70 


7 Al-A c raf 


His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[7:1] AlifLam Mlm Sad 
[Sahl said]: 

This means, ‘I am God, I divide up (afsilu ) 1 my servants with truth.’ From these letters is 
produced the name of God, Exalted is He: al-Samad (the Self-Sufficing, the One who is 
Eternally-Besought-of-All). 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:16] Verily I shall sit in ambush for them on Your straight path. 

[Your straight path] meaning the sacred laws ( sharaT ) of Islam, after God, Exalted is He, has 
clearly expounded [those laws] to them, as is stated in His words, Is it not an indication for 
them? [32:26], meaning, ‘Did We not clearly [distinguish] for them the path of goodness, which 
is what He has commanded, from the path of evil, which is what He has prohibited? Yet they 
inclined towards the desire of their lower selves, just as when They [ the messengers] said: “The 
evil omen is within yourselves [36:19].’” 

His words: 

[7:20] Then Satan whispered to them... 

He said: 

The whispering [of Satan] is [his] mentioning [something] ( dhikr ) [firstly] in the natural [pre- 
disposition] ( tabf , then in the lower self ( nafs ). 3 [This suggestion] then [becomes] the desire 
( hamm ), and finally the devising ( tadbir ). The whispering of the Enemy [i.e. Satan] has three 
possible situations ( maqdmdt ): the first is when he calls a person and whispers to him, the second 
is when he feels secure knowing that the person has accepted [the suggestion] , but the third is 
when his lot is only to wait and hope, and this is [his situation] with the veracious ( siddiqun ). 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:29] ...And call on Him, devoting your religion to Him... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Seek sincerity ( ikhlas ) secretly with an [inner] intention, for it is only the sincere who can 
recognise ostentation. However, seek action openly through emulation, for truly whoever 
does not emulate the Prophet in all his affairs is misguided. All other than these two [ways] 
are erroneous. 


1 All three MSS (Z515, f. 44b, F638, f. 22a and F3488, f. 218b) have afsilu, instead of aqdi in the printed edition. The editor 
may have read this word in the text, because the implication is of Gods allotting some of His servants happiness ( sa Q ada ), 
and others wretchedness ( shaqawa ) in His pre-eternal knowledge. This doctrine is alluded to in Tustarls commentary 
on 7:172 below. 

2 This is an example of a specific interpretation being given for the disconnected letters at the beginning of a sura. See 
above, Tustarls commentary on 2:1, and p. 12, n. 2. 

3 On ‘whispering’ or ‘evil incitement or suggestion ( waswasa ), see above, IT, p. xxxv, n. 138. 


71 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:31] ...And eat and drink, but do not be excessive; He truly does not love those who are excessive. 
Eating is of five kinds: that which is a necessity [for subsistence] ( darura ); that which is a source 
of sustenance ( qiwam ); that which is a source of nourishment (qut); that which should be of 
a determined [amount] ( mdlum ); 4 and that which one does without. [Beyond this], there is 
a sixth in which there is no good, and that is [wrongly] mixed ( takhlit ). 5 Furthermore, God, 
Exalted is He, created the world and placed knowledge and wisdom within hunger (juf, and 
placed ignorance and transgression within satiety ( shab c ). So, when you are hungry ask for satiety 
from the One who has afflicted you with hunger, and if you are satiated, ask for hunger from 
the One who has afflicted you with satiety, otherwise you will commit excesses and transgress. 
Then he recited: But man is wont to transgress 0 when he thinks himself self-sufficient [96:6, 7]. He 
also said: 

Truly, hunger is a secret among the secrets of God, Exalted is He, on earth, which He does not 
entrust to anyone who will disseminate it. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:33] Say: My Lord only forbids indecent acts, such of them as are apparent and such as are hid- 
den... 

He [Sahl] said: 

This refers to the envy ( hasad ) of a persons heart and the actions of his bodily members. If he 
were to give up the management (tadbir) of both he would be one of the ‘mainstays’ ( awtad ) 
of the earth. 6 However, the servant is between two states: either he is managing with his heart 
that which is not his concern, or he is acting through his bodily members upon that which is 
not his concern. No one is saved from either of these two except through the protection ( Hsma ) 
of God, Exalted is He. The source of life for hearts is certainty, and their darkness is brought 
on through [their own] devising and management (tadbir). 

He [Abu Bakr] said, ‘We were with Sahl at sunset, 7 and he said to Ahmad b. Salim, leave off manag- 
ing things, so that we may pray the Lshd’ prayer in Mecca. 8 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7 : 33] ■■■And [forbids] that you say concerning God that which you do not know. 

Whoever speaks about God without permission, in a way which lacks reverence ( hurma ) or 
without maintaining the due propriety (adab), has rent the veil ( satr ). Indeed, God, Exalted is 
He, has forbidden anyone to say anything about Him of which he has no knowledge. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:43] We shall strip away all rancour that is in their breasts... 

He said: 

This refers to whims ( ahwd and innovations ( bidaf . 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:46] And on the Heights are men... 


4 Perhaps this is referring to the medicinal use of certain foods. 

5 Takhlit literally means ‘confusion and disorder’. Since the root kh-l-t can also have the meaning of infecting, it is possible 
that this could also mean contaminated. 

6 According to Sufi tradition, the rank of the awtad (sing, watad ) lit. ‘mainstays’ or ‘props’, is one of the ranks of spiritual 
hierarchy, which continue on from the time of the Prophet. These ranks will be discussed further below in Tustarl’s 
commentary on 10:62 and p. 89, n. 5. 

7 It is not clear whether the speaker here is Abu Bakr al-Sijzi or c Umar b. Wasil. c Umar b. Wasil transmits a saying of 
Tustari soon after this in the commentary on 7:99. 

8 Meaning that if he would only leave olf his own attempt to manage things they might attain a miracle, such as being 
transported to Mecca in time to pray the Tsha 3 prayer, when at the time it was sunset. 


72 


7 Al-Wraf 


He said: 

The People of the Heights are the people of gnosis (malrifa ). 9 God, Exalted is He, said: ...who 
know each hy their mark [7:47]. Their standing is due to the honour ( sharaf) they enjoy in the 
two abodes and with the inhabitants of both, and the two angels 10 know them. Likewise [God] 
enabled them to see into ( ashrafahum ) n the secrets of His servants and their states in this world. 12 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:56] And work not corruption in the land, after it has been set right... 

He [Sahl] said: 

[It means that] you should not spoil obedience with sin. This is because whoever persists in 
sinning, though it be of the smallest kind of prohibited act, will find all his good deeds alloyed 
by that transgression. Furthermore, his good deeds will not become pure as long as he main- 
tains just one misdeed, until he repents and divests himself of that misdeed, thereby purifying 
them [his good deeds] from the defilement of sins [he commits], both in secret and openly. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:68] ...I am your [sincere] truthful advisor . 13 

Whoever is not sincere towards God within his own soul, and sincere towards Him with regard 
to His creatures, will be ruined. To act with sincerity ( nasiha ) towards God’s creatures is more 
difficult than being sincere within one’s own soul. The lowest level of sincerity [towards God] 
within the soul is gratitude ( shukr ), which is not to disobey God by [abusing] the blessings He 
has bestowed [on you] ( bi-ni c amihi ). 

On another occasion I heard him say: 

Sincerity is not to involve yourself in anything which you do not have the power to put right. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:94] And We did not send a prophet to any city but that We seized its people with misery and 
hardship... 

He [Sahl] said: 

This means they lost their hearts through their lack of knowledge, and because of severe hard- 
ship in their lives, such that they became preoccupied with their world [ly concerns] to the 
exclusion of their [concern for the] Hereafter. 

[7:95] Then We gave them in place of evil, good, until they multiplied... 

[He said]: 

[The fact that] they multiplied does not signify a pardon ( c afw) in the essential [meaning of 
that word]. 14 God, Exalted is He, has said: Indulge [people] with forgiveness ( c afw) [7:199], which 

9 Note that the two words cfraf meaning ‘the Heights’ and mcfrifa meaning ‘gnosis’ are derived from the same verbal root 
~r-f 

10 Munkar and Naklr are the two angels who question the dead in their graves concerning their faith. 

11 Note the play on words here using the root sh-r-f. Ishraf has the meaning of an elevated vantage point from which one 
has a commanding view over things, as was seen in Tustarl’s explanation of the ‘point of transcendency ( matla c Y in his 
discussion of four levels of meaning in the verses of the Qur'an. See above IC, p. 2. 

12 Mystics and men of great spirituality were said to be the ‘spies of hearts’ who had a penetrating spiritual perception or, 
more precisely, physiognomy (firasa ), that is, the ability to understand what is in a person’s heart from their external 
appearance. Concerning firasa, the Prophet said in a well-known hadith : ‘Beware the spiritual perception (firasa ) of 
the believer, for he sees with the light of God,’ and then recited the verse: ‘ Therein lie portents for those who read the 
signs (al-mutawassimm)’ (15:75). This hadith is cited later by Tustari in the context of his commentary on 15:75, where 
references for the hadith are given. 

13 The words used here are nasih amin. As was stated above, the verbal root n-s-h may convey both the meaning of advis- 
ing and of being sincere towards others. This verse occurs as part of the story of the prophet Hud, when he was trying 
to bring the message of the oneness of God to his people, the c Ad. 

14 The verbal root c -/-w has the meaning of being obliterated, or effaced, and hence the effacement of sin and being pardoned 
or excused, but it also has the meaning of becoming abundant in quantity, as here in this verse. 


73 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


[actually] means, ‘ [Take] the surplus (fadl) of their wealth which is a deposit from God in their 
keeping, because God most High has purchased it from them.’ And r the believer 1 15 possesses 
neither his soul nor his wealth. 

He was asked, ‘Where is [the believer’s] soul?’ He replied: 

It has been placed under contract with God, Exalted is He. He said: Indeed God has purchased 
from the believers their lives and their possessions, promising them Paradise in return. [9:111] 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:99] Do they feel secure from God’s plotting?... 

He [Sahl] said: 

The plotting (makr) belongs to His design ( tadbir ) within His prior knowledge, and it pertains 
to His omnipotence, 16 hence no one should feel secure against His plotting, for feeling secure 
against it does not repel anything that has been preordained ( qadar ). No one can exit the [sphere 
of] His omnipotence, Exalted is He. No one should feel free of fear, even if they [think] they 
have experienced all [possible] fear. However, once someone recognises his station ( manzila ) 
with God, Exalted is He, his knowledge will increase and his desire ( raghba ) will be fulfilled. 
But as for the one who does not know his station, that will be a source of shame ( c ar ) for him. 
c Umar Wasil said that he then asked [Sahl] , ‘How does a person’s station rise in accordance with his 
knowledge?’ He answered: 

There are two [kinds of] men: there is the man who rises [in his spiritual station] and asks 
for [further] elevation, 17 being avid for this; and then there is the man who is weaker than the 
other, whose [request] derives from gratitude, lest God should take back what He has given him. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:128] Moses said to his people, ‘Seek help from God and be patient.’ 

He [Sahl] said: 

He ordered them to seek help from God in keeping God’s commandments, so that they might 
enforce what is contained within them, take a firm hold on them and a firm stand against any 
breach of them, and show fortitude in this out of propriety. 

His words: 

[7:146] I shall turn away from My signs those who behave arrogantly in the earth without right... 
He [Sahl] said: 

It means that He will deprive them of understanding the Quhan, and following the Messenger M- 
It has been related from the Prophet H that he said, ‘Whoever has been given understanding of 
the Qur an has been given abundant good. However, whoever has been denied understanding 
of the Quhan has been denied access to a great science (Him c azim). ’ Also, the Prophet M said: 
‘A part of magnifying ( talzim ) God is honouring ( ikram ) the elderly in Islam, honouring the 
just leader, and honouring the person who has memorised the Quran, 1 8 whilst not exceeding 
the proper bounds in this.’ 19 
His words: 

[7:146] ...[those who] if they see the way of error, adopt it as a way... 

He [Sahl] said: 

He returned them to what He knew concerning them in His prior knowledge, which was that 


15 Added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 46a, F638, f. 22b and F3488, f. 220a. 

16 In other words, it is a manifestation of His prior knowledge (Him) through His omnipotence ( qudra ). 

17 lit. ‘the man who grows [in his spiritual station] and asks for further increase.’ 

18 lit. ‘bearer’ (hamil) of the Qur'an. 

19 That is to say, not being excessive in honouring them. The hadlth is listed in c Ajluni, Kashf al-khafa\ vol. 1, p. 284. 


74 


7 Al-JYraf 


they would do that [which is mentioned in the verse ]. 20 His forsaking ( khidhlan ) them is because 
of what they were directed to by their natural selves ( anfusuhum al-tabfiyya), namely, being 
active regarding His prohibitions, and passive regarding His commandments, and [falsely] 
claiming to have the power and strength [to do] that which their souls had a propensity for, 
and their conceit ( ightirdr ) in that. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:148] In his absence, Moses’ people made of their ornament a calf; a body, which lowed... 

He [Sahl] said: 

The calf of each person is anything to which he devotes himself which diverts him away from 
God, be it a spouse or children. Furthermore, he will not rid himself of that until he has 
annihilated all the interests ( huzuz ) he has , 21 that are its [his calf’s] means [of existence], just 
as the worshippers of the calf are not freed from its adoration except after slaying themselves . 22 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[7:149] And when they became at a loss ... 23 
He [Sahl] said: 

That is, they regretted [what they had done]. You say that ‘it falls into a person’s hands’ when 
he regrets something. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:156] ... We have turned to You... 

That is. We have repented to You. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:163] ...How they would transgress the Sabbath... 

He [Sahl] said: 

They transgressed because they followed their desire (hawd) on the Sabbath. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:169] ...And they have studied what is in it... 

That is they gave up acting upon it. 

His words: 

[7:171] When we wrenched (nataqna) the mountain [and held it above them]... 

That is, ‘We rent it (fataqnd ) and shook [it] violently, just as al- c Ajjaj said: [rajaz metre] 

They nurtured our great dreams, 

And tore apart (fataqnd ) our nightmares . 24 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:172] And remember when your Lord took from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their 
seeds, and made them testify about themselves... 


20 The whole verse [7:146] reads: I shall turn away from My signs those who behave arrogantly in the earth without right , and 
if they see every sign do not believe in it; and if they see the way of rectitude, do not adopt it as a way, but if they see the 
way of error, adopt it as a way. That is because they have denied Our signs and were heedless of them. Thus God says that 
He will turn away from His signs those who have acted arrogantly on earth, and, according to Tustaris interpretation, 
will forsake them because of His foreknowledge that they would do so. 

21 Hazz (pi. huzuz) being either a [personal] interest, portion, share or pleasure. 

22 A reference to Surat al-Baqara [2:54]. 

23 lit. when it ‘fell into their hands’. 

24 i.e., obliterated them. The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya states that this couplet is not by al- c Ajjaj. 


75 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He [Sahl] said: 

God, Exalted is He, took the prophets from the loins of Adam, and then He extracted from 

the back of each prophet his progeny in a molecular form [lit. in the shape of specks] possess- 
ing intellects ( c uqul ). Then he took from the prophets their pledge ( mlthaq ), as is stated in His 
words, We took from the prophets their pledge: as (We did) from you and from Noah [33:7]. The 
Covenant that they were bound to was that they would convey from God, Exalted is He, His 
commandments and prohibitions. Then He called them all to affirm His lordship, with His 
words, Exalted is He: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ Then He manifested His omnipotence [to them], 
so They said: ‘Yes, we testify’ [7:172]. 25 Thus did God gather what He wanted ( murad ) from His 
creatures, and the beginning and end that was in store for them in their saying ‘Yes’, since this 
was in the manner of a trial ( ibtilcT ). 26 Indeed, God, Exalted is He, said: And His Throne was 
upon the water, that He might try you [11:7]. He also made the prophets testify for themselves as 
a proof ( hujjatan ), as God, Exalted is He, has said, and made them testify concerning themselves. 
Then He returned them to the loins of Adam '<L&, and subsequently He sent the prophets to 
remind them of His Pact and Covenant. Furthermore, within His knowledge on the day when 
they affirmed what they affirmed, were those who would deny it and those who would verify 
it, 27 and the last hour will not arrive until every person who made the Covenant has appeared. 

He was asked, ‘What are the signs of happiness (stfada) and wretchedness ( shaqdwa )?’ 28 He said: 
Truly, among the signs of wretchedness is the denial of His omnipotence, and truly among 
the signs of happiness is the expansiveness of your heart in faith, 29 your being provided with 
riches in your heart, protection in obedience, and success in renouncing [the world] ( zuhd ). 
Whoever is inspired with propriety ( adab ) in that which is between him and God, Exalted is 
He, will be purified of heart, and bestowed with happiness. There is nothing more exacting 
than preserving propriety. 

He was asked, ‘What is propriety?’ [He answered]: 

[It is that you should] let your food be barley, your sweetmeat dates, your condiment salt, your 
fat yoghurt. You should let your clothes be of wool, your houses be mosques, your source of 
light the sun, your lamp the moon, your perfume water, your splendour cleanliness, and your 
adornment wariness (hadhr). Moreover, you should let your work consist in being content 
(irtiddT) — or he said contentment (rida) — , your journeys provision ( zad ) be mindfulness 
of God ( taqwd ), your eating be at night, your sleep in the day, your speech be remembrance 
(1 dhikr ), your resolve (samma) and your aspiration ( himma ) be for contemplation ( tafakkur ), 30 
your reflective thought ( nazar ) be to take example ( c ibra), n and your refuge ( malja 7 ) and the 


25 On the Covenant and Tustaris interpretation of 7:172, see above IT, pp. xxxi-xxxii and xxxv-xxxvi. 

26 The implication here seems to be that in this manifestation of the divine omnipotence, God had all His creatures testify 
(through Him) to His lordship, and within this testimony (their saying ‘Yes’), was also their acknowledgment of their 
divinely decreed beginning and end. This was, moreover, a test and a trial ( ibtila J ), for while it was testing them as to 
whether or not they would bear witness to His lordship, their very answering ‘Yes’, implied their acceptance of the trials 
of human existence. 

27 According to the tradition that some made the affirmation willingly, others unwillingly. See for example, DaylamI, Atf 
al-alif, p. 53; English trans., Bell as A Treatise on Mystical Love, p. 133. For the numerous hadiths commenting on 7:172 
see Tabari, Jam? al-bayan, vol. 13, pp. 222-50; also idem, Tartkh al-rusul wal-muluk (Cairo, 1960-9); English trans. of 
vol. 1 by Franz Rosenthal as The History of al-Tabari I (Albany, 1989), pp. 304-7. On the development of the doctrines 
surrounding 7:172, according to Sunni and Shfl thought as well as in Sufism, see Nasrollah Pourjavady, ‘ c Ahd-i Alast: 
c Aqida-yi Abu Hamid al-Ghazzall wa jaygah-i tarikh-i an, Ma c arif 7, no. 2 (1990), pp. 3-47, now expanded and republished 
as ch. 2 in idem, Du mujaddid (Tehran, 2002). On the Covenant of Alast, see references given in n. 25 above. 

28 These two words, sa c ada and shaqdwa, are often used, as in this context, to denote our predestined and eventually eternal 
happiness or misery, hence felicity or wretchedness. 

29 A reference perhaps to 6:125: Whomever God desires to guide, He expands his breast to Islam. 

30 Tafakkur instead of fikr on the basis of all three MSS: MSS Z515, f. 48a, F638, f. 23b and F3488, f. 221b. 

31 Tbra means the salutary lesson that can be drawn from things, often things which have happened to other people. 


76 


7 Al-A c rdf 


one who helps you ( ndsir ) be your Lord. Persevere in this until you die . 32 

He also said: 

Three of the signs of wretchedness ( shaqdwa ) are that a person misses the congregational prayer 
while he is close to the mosque; that he misses the congregational prayer while in Medina; and 
that he misses the Hajj while he is in Mecca. 

[Returning to the interpretation of the verse 7 : 172 ], Sahl said: 

The progeny ( dhurriyya ) comprise three [parts] , a first, second and third: the first is Muhammad St, 
for when God, Exalted is He, wanted to create Muhammad M He made appear ( azhara ) a light 
from His light, and when it reached the veil of divine majesty it prostrated before God, and 
from that prostration God created an immense crystal Tike column of light, that was inwardly 
and outwardly Translucent 1 , 33 and within it was the essence of Muhammad M- Then it stood 
in service before the Lord of the Worlds for a million years with the essential characteristics of 
faith (tabdH c al-lman), which are the visual beholding of faith ( mu c dyanat al-lman), the unveil- 
ing of certainty ( mukdshafat al-yaqln ) and the witnessing of the Lord ( mushahadat al-Rabb). 
Thus He honoured him with this witnessing, a million years before beginning the creation. 
There is no one who is not overcome by Iblls, may God curse him, or captured by him, save the 
prophets 3a9, and the veracious ( siddiqun ), whose hearts bear witness to their faith according to 
their [different] stations ( maqamdt ), and who know that God observes them in all their states. 
Furthermore, according to the measure of their witnessing ( mushahada ), They experience 
trial[s] (ibtildH), and according to the measure of their experience of trials, they seek protec- 
tion. Likewise according to the measure of their poverty (faqr ) and need (faqa) for Him 1 , 34 they 
recognise harm ( durr ) and benefit ( naf ), and increase in knowledge (Him), understanding 
( fahm ) and reflective thought (nazar). 

Then he said: 

God has not placed a burden of service ( khidma ) upon any of the prophets S3 as great as that 
which he placed upon our Prophet H. Furthermore, there is not a position of service in which 
God, Exalted is He, has been served by the children of Adam S83 up to the time when He sent 
our Prophet fs, in which our Prophet fi has not served God. 

He [Sahl] was asked about a saying of the Prophet fi, ‘Truly, I am not like any of you, verily my 

Lord feeds me and gives to drink .’ 35 He answered: 

[He was not speaking about] food and water that he had, but he was mentioning his particular 
quality with God, Exalted is He, such that he was [in His presence] as someone who has eaten 
food and drunk water . 36 Indeed, had he had any food and water he would have given priority 
to his family and the People of the Bench ( Ahl al-Sujfa) over himself . 37 
The second among the progeny, is Adam 3S3. God created him from the light r of Muhammad it 1 . 38 
And He created Muhammad M, that is, his body, from the clay of Adam $0. 

The third is the progeny of Adam. God, Mighty and Majestic is He, created the seekers [of God] 

( murldun ) from the light of Adam, and He created the [divinely]-sought ( muradun ) from the 
light of Muhammad H. Thus, the generality among people live under the mercy of the people 


32 Bayhaqi, Kitab al-Zuhd al-kabir, vol. 2, p. 356. 

33 That is, reading yura zahiruhu wa batinuhu as in all three MSS: Z515, f. 48a, F638, f. 23b and F3488, f. 221b), to mean 
literally both its exterior and interior could be seen, i.e., as Bowering has translated, it was translucent, like a crystal. 

34 The section between the brackets is absent from the MS Z515, but is present in F638, f. 23b and F3488, f. 222a, though 
the words wa c ala qadri mtfrifatihim al-ibtila' yatlubunal-isma are absent from F638. 

35 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Sawm’. 

36 i.e. he received in a direct manner spiritual nourishment from God. 

37 On the People of the Bench, see above Tustari s commentary on 2:273 and p. 37, n. 146. 

38 All the MSS (Z515 f. 48b, F638, f. 23b and F3488, f. 222a) have the words Muhammad Q alayhi al-salam, instead of qala 
c alayhi al-salam in the printed edition. 


77 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


of proximity ( ahl al-qurb ) and the people of proximity live under the mercy of the one brought 
near ( al-muqarrab ) — With their light shining forth before them and on their right. [57U2] 39 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:176] Had We willed, We would have raised him up [with Our signs]... 

This refers to Bafam b. Ba c ura 3 . 40 But he was disposed to the earth and followed his [lower] desires. 
He turned away [from Gods signs] due to his following his [base] desire (hawd). God, Exalted 
is He, distributed desire among the bodily members such that each bodily member has a por- 
tion of it. If one of the bodily members inclines towards that desire, its harm will return to the 
heart. Know that the self has a secret which did not manifest itself except with Pharaoh when 
he said: ‘I am your Lord most High’ [79:24]. 

Then [Sahl] was asked, ‘How can we be preserved from [base] desire ( hawa)V He replied: 

Whoever keeps himself in propriety ( adab ) will be preserved from it, for whoever subdues his 
lower self through propriety serves God, Mighty and Majestic is He, with true sincerity ( ikhlds ). 
He also said: 

The self ( nafs ) has seven heavenly veils and seven earthly veils. The more the servant buries 
his [lower] self in the earth the higher will his heart soar heavenwards. Furthermore, if he 
[completely] buries his lower self beneath the earth his heart will reach the Throne. He also 
said about Kahmasthat he used to pray a thousand rak c as (cycles of prayer) during the course 
of the day and night. He would make the closing greetings of peace ( saldms ) between each 
pair of rakas then say to his lower self, ‘Get up O refuge of evil, I am not satisfied with you.’ 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[7:180] And to God belong the Most Beautiful Names, so invoke Him by them. 

He [Sahl] said: 

Truly behind the names and attributes are attributes which no comprehension can penetrate, 
for God is a blazing fire and is inaccessible. Yet we have no option but to plunge in [and try to 
reach Him] . And leave those who blaspheme His names [7:180], that is, those who are blasphe- 
mous with His names and deny [the truth] .’ 

His words: 

[7:182] We shall draw on those who deny Our Signs, by degrees, in such a way that they will not 
perceive it. 

He [Sahl] said: 

This means, ‘We shall abundantly increase their bounties, and make them forget to show 
gratitude for them. Then when they are contented while veiled from the Bestower [of those 


39 This is a description of the believing men and women on the Day of Resurrection. The one brought near’ is an allusion 
to Muhammad. See above, the commentary on the poem cited under 2:41, p. 33. 

40 Bafam b. Ba c ura’ (Balaam son of Boer) is not mentioned by name in the Qur’an, but he is said to be the subject of 
7:175-6. According to ThaTabi, he was a Canaanite descended from Lot, who lived in the Syrian city of Balqa c , said to be 
inhabited by giants. As Moses was approaching their land, Bafam, who knew Gods Highest Name and whose prayers 
were answered, was approached by the people of that land, who, fearing that they would be driven out by the Israelites, 
importuned him to pray against Moses and his people. At first, Bafam refused to curse one of Gods prophets, but 
eventually he was persuaded to do so and ascended the mountain to pray against the Israelites. However, as he prayed 
against them his tongue was turned around so that his prayer was directed against his own people, and as he prayed for 
his own people, his tongue was turned around so that he prayed for the Israelites. When he returned to his people, they 
chided him for having prayed for the Israelites and against them. Bafam then admitted that this was out of his control 
and his tongue stuck out so far that it fell on to his chest. He then devised a strategy whereby women would be sent 
among the Israelites to tempt them into fornication. This brought about a plague upon the Israelites. See ThaTabi, AraHs 
al-majalis, pp. 257-9; trans. Brinner, AraTs, pp. 392-6. See also Tabari, History, vol. 3, Children of Israel, trans. Brinner, 
pp. 9iff. The Qur’an compares Bafam to a dog: Therefore his likeness is as the likeness of a dog: if you attack it, it lolls its 
tongue out, and if you leave it, it lolls its tongue out. As is the case in Tustarfs commentary, Bafam is often shown in Sufi 
literature as a prototype of a man of religion or spirituality brought down by his own desires. 


78 


7 Al-JYraf 


bounties] ( al-Murfim ), they will be seized.’ 

His words: 

[7:185] Have they not contemplated the dominion of the heavens and the earth... 

He [Sahl] said: 

[This is] God’s reminder of His omnipotence ( qudra ) [manifested] in His creation, and a 
portrayal of their need for Him, Exalted is He. With regard to whatever He created that they 
have heard about but not seen, and those things that they have been deluded by, [He says], ‘If 
only they had perceived them with their hearts, they would have believed in the unseen, and 
their faith would have led them to witness the unseen which was hidden from them. Then 
they would have inherited the ranks of the righteous ( abrar ) and become beacons of guidance.’ 
His words: 

[7:187] He alone will reveal it at its proper time ... 41 

That is, no one can reform the natural self ( nafs al-taV) from being ruled by passion ( hawd ) to 
obeying God, save He. 42 This is the inner meaning of the verse. 43 
His words: 

[7:187] ...They will question you as if you were eager to find it out... that is, as if you knew the time 
it would occur . 44 
His words: 

[7:188] I have no power to benefit or harm myself except as God wills... 

So how can anyone benefit another when he does not have the power to benefit himself? That 
is for God alone, Exalted is He. 

His words: 

[7:198] ...You see them staring at you, but they do not perceive. 

He [Sahl] said: 

It [refers to] those hearts that God, Exalted is He, has not adorned with His lights and with 
proximity, so that they are blind to the apprehension of realities (haqd'iq) and the recognition 
of great people ( akabir ). 

His words: 

[7:205] And remember your Lord inwardly, humbly and fearfully. . . 

[Sahl was asked], ‘What is the true reality of remembrance ( haqiqat al-dhikr)V He answered: 

It is the realisation ( tahqiq ) of the knowledge that God, Exalted is He, witnesses you, and it is 
that you see Him close to you with your heart. Thus, you feel shame before Him and give Him 
priority over yourself in all your affairs. 

Then he said: 

The one who claims to keep remembrance ( dhikr ) is not necessarily one who [truly] remembers 
[God] ( dhakir ). 

He was asked, ‘What is the meaning of the saying of the Prophet IS: “The world is accursed and what 
it contains is accursed save the remembrance of God (dhikr Allah), most High?”’ 45 [He replied]: 


41 In this verse the Prophet is being informed that he will be asked about the Hour and when it will come, and instructed 
what he should answer. 

42 On Tustari s use of the terms nafs al-tatf and nafs al-ruh see IT, pp. xxxviiiff. above, and Bowering, Mystical Vision, pp. 
158-9, and 160-1. 

43 The context for the words which Tustari is commenting upon here is Gods command to the Prophet regarding the 
answer he should give when he is questioned about the Hour (i.e., the Day of Resurrection). 

44 Tustari is returning here to the outer meaning of the verse. 

45 TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usiil, vol. 1, p. 255; TirmidhI, Sunan, ‘Kitab al-Zuhd’. 


79 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His saying ‘the remembrance of God’ here means renouncing what is unlawful ( zuhd c an 
al-haram ) , that is, when something unlawful comes a person’s way he remembers God, Exalted 
is He, and he knows that God is watching him, so he avoids that unlawful thing. 46 
His words: 

[7:205] ...and do not be one of the heedless... 

Sahl said: 

In truth I say to you without any falsehood, in certainty without a doubt, that any person who 
spends a breath in other than God’s remembrance does so while being heedless of God, Mighty 
and Majestic is He. 

He also said: 

Heedlessness (ghafla) among the elite ( khdss ) is acquiescing ( sukun ) in anything [other than 
Him], Heedlessness among the generality ( c amm) is taking pride ( iftikhar ) in anything [other 
than Him], that is to say, it is [also] acquiescing {sukun) [in other than Him]. 47 



46 Again, this recalls the teaching imparted to Tustari by his uncle. See above, IT, p. xv. 

47 Note that Tustari is here using the term sukiin in a pejorative way, in the same way he used the term musakana in his 
commentary on 2:30, above. It will be recalled that in his commentary on 4:81 and 6:151, he used the word sukun in the 
positive sense of tranquil repose and acquiescence in God. 


80 


8 Al-Anfal 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[8:1] ...So have full awareness of God, and set things right between you... 

He [Sahl]said: 

Having full awareness of God ( taqwd ) means abandoning everything which befalls one [which 
might impede that awareness]. Among the proprieties ( adab ), it refers to the noblest character 
traits. It means that even if one should be enticed [by reward] ( targhib ), one does not reveal 
a secret, and even if one should be intimidated ( tarhib ), one does not remain on the side of 
ignorance. Furthermore, full awareness of God is not acceptable except in the one who is a 
follower of the Prophet M and the Companions. 

His words: 

[8:2] The believers are those whose hearts tremble [with awe], when God is mentioned... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Their [hearts] tremble from the fear of separation (firaq ), and hence their bodily members 
humbly submit to God in [His] service ( khidma ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[8:11] Remember when He caused drowsiness to overcome you, as a reassurance from Him... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Drowsiness (n« c ds) descends from the brain while yet the heart remains awake [lit. alive] . Sleep 
(nawm) [only descends] on the heart outwardly. 1 That is the rule ( hukm ) [for] sleep. However, 
the same rule [that applied to the heart] regarding drowsiness [applies to] the spirit ( ruh ). 2 
His words: 

[8:19] If [O disbelievers] you were seeking a judgement, the judgement has now come to you... 
This is because Abu Jahl said on the Day of Badr, ‘O God! Give victory to the best of the two 
religions with You, and the most pleasing of them to You.’ Then the verse descended, If you 
were seeking a judgement, meaning, ‘If you were seeking to be helped [to victory].’ 

It has been reported of the Prophet M that he would seek victory for the sake of the destitute 
(sa^alik) among the Emigrants, that is, he sought to be helped [to victory] for the sake of the 
poor (fuqaraj among them. 3 
His words: 

[8:23] For had God known any good in them, He would indeed have made them hear... 

That is. He would have opened the locks of their hearts with faith. 

His words: 

[8:29] ...If you fear God, He will grant you a criterion (furqan)... 

1 That is, the heart only appears to be asleep. 

2 That is, the spirit remains awake’ or alive’. The affect of sleep on the different parts of the inner make-up of the human 
being is discussed by Tustarl below in his commentary on 39:42. Again see IT, pp. xxxix-xl. 

3 Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad , vol. 3, p. 96; TabaranI, al-Mu c jam al-awsat, vol. 3, p. 348. 


8l 


That is, a light in religion, by which [you can distinguish] between truth and falsehood in 
doubtful matters. 

His words: 

[8:37] In order that God may separate the wicked from the good... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Wickedness ( khabith ) takes different forms: it maybe disbelief ( kufr ), hypocrisy ( nifaq ), or 
grave sins (kabcTir). Likewise goodness ( tayyib ) is manifested in different forms: [that is to 
say], goodness is faith ( iman ), within which are included the [different] ranks of the prophets 
( anbiya '), veracious ( siddiqun ), martyrs (shuhadff) and virtuous ( salihun ). God, Exalted is He, 
has informed us that He has separated them from one another [i.e. the good from the bad], 
and He then ranks the corrupt, one above the other, according to the measure of each of their 
sins, level upon level, just as He has said: Verily the hypocrites will be in the lowest level of the 

Fire [4:145]- 
His words: 

[8:46] ...[and lest] your strength (rlh) fade ... 4 

That is, your power ( dawla ). 

His words: 

[8:48] ...He turned his back ... 5 

[That is], whence he came. 

His words: 

[8:53] Because God will never change a grace that He has conferred on a people, until they change 
that which is in themselves... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Verily God most High has privileged the prophets $i 81 and some of the veracious ( siddiqun ) by 
acquainting them with the blessings ( an c dm ) He had bestowed upon them, before they disap- 
pear. 6 God showed clemency towards them. 

His words: 

[8:69] But [now] enjoy what you took in war, lawful and good... 

He said: 

The lawful ( haldl ) is that in which [a person] does not disobey God, and the good ( tayyib ) is 
that in which he does not forget God. 

His words: 

[8:72] Truly those who believed and emigrated and strove with their wealth and their lives in the 
way of God... 

He [Sahl] said: 

All forms of obedience to God involve struggle with the lower self ( jihad al-nafs). There is no 
struggle easier than the struggle with swords, and no struggle harder than opposing the lower self. 


4 These words form part of an exhortation to the believers. The whole verse [8:46] reads: And obey God and His Messenger, 
and do not quarrel with one another, lest you falter, and your strength fade; and be patient. Surely God is with the patient. 
In Tafsir al-Jalalayn, the word strength has been glossed as power and dominion. 

5 ‘He’ here is Satan, who had been encouraging the army of the unbelievers on the occasion of the Battle of Badr. However, 
when he saw the two armies approaching each other, he disappeared whence he had come. 

6 That is, they are able to appreciate the ephemeral blessings and graces before they inevitably disappear, perhaps also 
with an awareness of their transience. 


82 


9 Al-Tawba 


Sahl said, ‘Muhammad b. Sawwar informed me from Malik b. Dinar from MaTuf b. c AlI from al- 
Hasan, from Maharib b. Dithar, from Jabir b. c Abd Allah (may God be pleased with them all), that 
he reported that when Surat Bara a was sent down, the Messenger of God % said, “I was sent to 
treat people with affability ( mudarat 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[9:2] Journey freely in the land... 

That is, ‘Travel through the land and while doing so learn the lessons [from what you see], 
whilst affirming ( iqrdr ) God.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[9:2] ...[neither bond of] kinship nor treaty ... 1 2 

Ill means kinship, and ‘dhimma’ means a treaty. 

His words: 

[9:16] ...an intimate friend (wallja)... 3 

TJmar b. Wasil al- Anbari said, ‘A walija is anything that you cause to enter or become part of some- 
thing other than itself.’ 4 Sahl said: 

This means that they 5 did not become heedless of Him by the inclining of their hearts towards 
their lower selves. 

His words: 

[9:29] ...Nor do they practise the religion of truth... 

That is, they do not obey [it]. And whoever is under the authority ( sultan ) of a man is also upon 
his religion (din), just as He has said: He could not have taken his brother according to the king’s 
law [12:76], that is, under his authority. Likewise, if the self embraces sincerity ( ikhlds ) before 
God, Exalted is He, it comes under the rule of the heart ( qalb ), the intellect ( c aql), the spiritual 
self (nafs al-ruh), 6 and the body in obedience, for the remembrance of God, Exalted is He. 


1 Surat Bara a is an alternative name for Surat al-Tawba, taken from the word with which the sura opens, meaning ‘im- 
munity from God and His Messenger’, which is discussed in the first few verses. Repentance ( al-tawba ) is the subject 
of w. 103, 112 and 118. 

2 Referred to in this verse are the hypocrites, who give the appearance of making a pact, but when they gain the upper 
hand, have no regard either for the pact or for the bonds of kinship. 

3 The context is that God is informing the believers that He has yet to know from them which of them has gone through 
the struggle and not taken any intimate friend besides Him, the Messenger and the believers. 

4 According to Lane, walijatuhum means: ‘an adherent to them’, ‘one who has entered, become introduced or been included 
among them’; ‘a particular, intimate friend or associate’; or ‘one whom a person takes to rely on or have confidence in, 
not being of his family’. 

5 That is, those referred to in the verse as the ones who have been tested by God and found not to have resorted to any 
other than Him. 

6 On nafs al-ruh and nafs al-tab c in Tustari’s understanding of the inner make-up of the human being, see above IT, pp. 
xxxviiiff. 


83 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words: 

[9:32] They desire to extinguish God’s light with their mouths... 

This means that they are intent upon destroying the Qur'an with the lying of their tongues. But 
God insists on bringing His light to its fullness, that is, He will [fully] manifest His religion, Islam. 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[9:67] ...They have forgotten God, so He has forgotten them... 

He said: 

This means that they have forgotten the bounties ( nTam ) of God that they had, and He has 
made them forget to show gratitude ( shukr ) for those bounties. 

His words: 

[9:71] And the believers, both men and women, are protecting friends of one another. 

He said: 

[A person’s] protective friendship ( muwdlat ) towards the believers is [his] avoiding doing 
them any harm. 

Then he said: 

Know that the servant does not attain true faith ( haqiqat al-iman ) until he becomes as the 
earth for the servants of God — [it endures] the suffering that they [impose] upon it, 7 8 and 
they [derive] benefits from it. 

He also said: 

The fundamentals ( usul), & in our view, comprise seven things: adherence to the Book of God, 
following the Messenger of God J8, abiding by what is lawful, refraining from harm [to others] , 
the avoidance of sins, repentance and the observance of the rights [of others]. 

His words: 

[9:73] O Prophet, struggle against the disbelievers and the hypocrites... 

He said: 

Struggle against your lower self with the sword of opposition! Place upon its [back] the bur- 
dens of remorse (nadam), and guide it through the desert plains of fear ( khawf ), so that you 
may turn it back to the path of repentance ( tawba ) and contrition ( inaba ). Repentance is not 
acceptable except from one who feels perplexed at his plight, grief-stricken at his situation, and 
confounded in his heart at what has happened to him. God, Exalted is He, has said: When the 
earth seemed straightened for them, for all its breadth [9:118]. 9 
His words: 

[9:108] ...In it are men who love to purify themselves... 

He [Sahl] said: 

What He means by this purification ( tahdra ) is remembrance ( dhikr ) of God, Exalted is He, 
secretly and openly, and obedience to Him. 


7 i.e. it passively endures whatever they do to it. According to the MSS (Z515, f. 51b, F638, f. 25a and F3488, f. 225a), an alif 
has been omitted in the published edition, which should read: adhahum c alayha. 

8 Complying here with the printed edition and MS Fatih 3488, f. 225a. Z515, f. 51b and F638, f. 25a, however, have wusul, 
which might be translated as attainment’ 

9 This is a reference to the three men who wavered and failed to support the Prophet on the expedition of Tabuk. Such was 
their sense of regret afterwards that not only did the earth feel constricted for them but also their own souls. So it was for 
them until, as the remainder of the verse relates, they realised that there was no refuge from God except with Him. Then He 
turned [ relenting] to them that they might also turn [in repentance]. Truly God is the Relenting, the Merciful [9:118] . It is probably 
because of the emphasis in this verse and the previous one [9:117] on God’s relenting towards the believers and those who 
wavered — and in Arabic the same verb is used (taba) both for God’s relenting towards humanity and for their repenting 
to Him — that the sura is usually given the title al-Tawba. See above, p. 83, n. 1. 


84 


9 Al-Tawba 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[9:111] Indeed God has purchased from the believers their selves and their possessions, so that 
theirs will be [the reward of] Paradise... 

That is, He has purchased [one’s] self from the desires of this world and from all that distracts 
it from remembrance of Him, so that one’s self and wealth may become solely devoted to Him. 
And how can anyone who has not sold his ephemeral life and fleeting desires to God, live with 
God, Exalted is He? Moreover how can he live a good life? 

Then he said: 

God has purchased from the believers their selves... notwithstanding the fact that there is no 
good in them, and He gave them in exchange that which is entirely good, even though all that 
is within the two realms of existence belongs to Him. Truly this is out of His utmost gracious- 
ness ( lutf) and generosity ( karam ) to His believing servants. 

Malik b. Dinar has related that he passed by a palace under construction and asked the workers 
about their wages. Each one replied by telling him how much his wage was except for one of 
them. So he asked him, ‘What is your wage?’ He replied, ‘I don’t have a wage.’ He asked, ‘And 
why is that?’ and he replied, ‘It is because I am the servant of the owner of the palace.’ Then 
Malik r cried out and 1 10 said, ‘O my Lord! How generous you are! All humanity are your servants, 
yet you have assigned them work to do and promised them a reward for it.’ 

His words: 

[9:112] Those who repent, those who worship... 

Sahl said: 

Of the rights * 11 [due to God] in this world there is none whose fulfilment is more incumbent 
upon humanity than repentance. Indeed it is obligatory [for them] at every moment and instant, 
and there is no punishment more severe on them than the lack of knowledge of repentance. 
He was asked, ‘What is repentance?’ He answered, ‘It is not to forget your sin.’ Then he said: 

The first thing that a novice is instructed to do is to change his reprehensible actions into 
praiseworthy ones, which is repentance. [However] his repentance is not complete until he 
imposes silence upon himself, and his silence is not complete until he forces himself to observe 
seclusion ( khalwa ). His seclusion is not complete unless his food is lawful. His consumption of 
what is lawful, however, is not complete unless he fulfils the right of God, Exalted is He, and 
his fulfilment of what is God’s right is not complete unless he guards his bodily members and 
his heart. Moreover, none of that which we have described is acceptable unless [the novice] 
seeks God’s aid at every stage. 

He was asked, ‘What is the mark of true repentance?’ He replied: 

Its mark is that a person gives up what is [rightfully] his in addition to what is not his. 

Sahl was [then] asked about a man who repents and renounces a certain sin, but then it occurs to 
his heart, or he sees it or hears of it and finds sweetness in that vile sin. What is to be done in such 
a case? He replied: 

The feeling of sweetness pertains to [his] nature (tab c ) and is not susceptible of change, such that 
a thing which is loved could become something detestable. However, the heart’s determination 
can be coerced so that he can return to God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and place his dilemma 
before Him. Then he should force on himself and on his heart a state of rejection [of that sin] 
which should never leave him, for if he becomes inattentive to that state of rejection for just 
the blinking of the eye, it is to be feared that he will not remain safe from it. 12 


10 The addition of saha is in all three MSS: Z515, f. 52b, F638, f 25a and F3488, f. 225b. 

11 The word haqq (pi. huquq ) means here the right or just claim which someone can claim from another. In this case, it is 
the right which God has to claim from human beings. 

12 This saying is cited in MakkI, Qut al-qulub , vol. 1, p. 324. 


85 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He [also] said: 

Give up all idle talk (qdl wa qll). In this day and age, there are three things which you must do: 
repent to God, Mighty and Majestic is He, from what you are aware of between yourselves and 
Him; as far as you are capable, make amends for wrongs done to servants; and when morning 
comes do not preoccupy yourselves with the evening, nor when evening comes preoccupy 
yourselves with the morning [that has been or is to come]. Misfortunes have multiplied and 
the danger is great. So fear God and coerce yourselves into a state of repentance. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[9:122] ... a party from each group should go forth so that they may become learned in religion 
He said: 

[That is], in order to learn what is necessary concerning their religion. It has been related from 
Hasan al-Basrl that he said, ‘The erudite ifaqih) is the one who has renounced this world ( zahid ), 
who is desirous ( rdghib ) of the Hereafter, and who has insight ( basir ) into religious affairs. Sahl 
was asked about the words of the Prophet M, ‘Seeking knowledge is an obligation (farida ) for 
every Muslim’. 13 He said, ‘This refers to the knowledge of [one’s] state ( hdl ).’ 

He was asked, ‘What is the knowledge of [one’s] state?’ He replied: 

Inwardly it is sincerity ( ikhlds ) and outwardly it is emulation (iqtidti)}* Moreover, unless a 
person’s outward [self] ( zahir ) is leading his inner [self] ( batin ), and his inner self is the perfec- 
tion ( kamal ) of his outward self, he will merely be fatiguing his body. 15 
He was asked, ‘What is the explanation of this?’ He said: 

Truly God keeps watch over you, in what you keep secret and what you make known, in your 
[moments of] movement and stillness, 16 and you are never absent from Him even for the 
blinking of the eye, just as He has said, Is He who stands over every soul [observing] what it has 
earned? [13:33], and He has said, There is not a secret consultation between three, but He makes 
the fourth among them [58:7]. He has also said, We are nearer to him than [his] aorta (habl 
al-warid) [50:16]. This is the artery located deep inside the heart, and He has informed us that 
He is closer to the heart than that artery. 17 If you know this you should feel shame before Him. 
Furthermore, whenever some craving from the lower self stirs itself in the heart, and [at that 
moment] the servant remembers that God, Mighty and Majestic is He, is watching over him, 
and subsequently abandons [that craving] , knowledge of his state will enter his heart, such that 
if what he is granted were to be distributed among the people of Medina, all of them would 
rejoice at it, and would triumph because of it. Malik b. Anas alluded to this point when he 
said, ‘Knowledge is not just about how much you can relate [from memory] ( riwdya ) but rather 
knowledge is a light that God places within the heart.’ 

He [Sahl] was asked, ‘How can a man recognise his state ( hal ) and act upon it?’ 18 He replied: 

When you speak, your state is that of speech, and when you observe silence, your state is that 
of silence. When you stand your state is that of standing, and when you sit your state is that of 


13 MS Z515, f. 53a only has every Muslim man and woman’ ( muslim wa muslima). The hadith is listed in Tabaranl, al- 
Mu c jam al-awsat, vol. 2, p. 289 and vol. 6, p. 97; Tabaranl, al-Mu c jam al-saghir, vol. 1, pp. 36, 58. 

14 On iqtida 3 see above IT, pp. liii-liv. 

15 Tustari is here emphasising the essential interdependence of outer practice and inner realisation in the mystical way. 

16 Or, ‘in everything that you do’. See above, p. 66, n. 17. 

17 Although habl al-warid is customarily translated as ‘the jugular vein, according to Lane (under h-b-l ) it is, ‘a name ap- 
plied to each of the two carotid arteries and sometimes to each of the two external jugular veins’. It is also applied to ‘a 
vein between the windpipe and the two sinews, called the Hlbawan or ‘a certain vein in the neck’ or throat ( halq ). Lane 
elsewhere states, concerning warid (under w-r-d ), that it is applied to ‘each of the two veins asserted by the Arabs to be 
from the aorta ( wartin)\ Since Tustari states that the habl al-warid is ‘deep inside the heart’, he may understand it to be 
the aorta, this being the artery that issues from the heart. I am grateful to Aziza Spiker, who queried the conventional 
translation, ‘jugular vein. 

18 That is translating wal- c amal bihi as in all three MSS (Z515, f. 53b, F638, f. 25b and F3488, f. 226b), instead of c ilm bihi as 


86 


9 Al-Tawba 


sitting. [To have] knowledge of your state you should see whether it is for God or for other than 
Him . 19 If it is for God you may settle in it, but if it is for other than Him you should abandon it. 
This is the act of taking account of oneself ( muhasaba ) which c Umar enjoined when he said, 
‘Call yourselves to account before you are called to account, and weigh yourselves up before 
you are weighed up. . .’ 20 Indeed, TJmar used to beat his chest while calling himself to account. 



in the printed edition. 

19 The use of the term hal here is interesting, and different from its more technical usage in Sufism, when it denotes a 
spiritual state. What is being implied in this context is a kind of existential understanding of every action we do. 

20 TirmidhI, Sunan , ‘Kitab Sifat al-qiyama; Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musannaf, vol. 7, p. 96. 


87 


io Yunus 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[10:2] . . .And give good tidings to those who believe that they have a sure footing with their Lord. . . 
He [Sahl] said: 

This refers to the preordained mercy that was deposited in Muhammad M- 
His words: 

[10:3] ...[He is] directing affairs. . . 

He said: 

He alone decrees every decree, and chooses for the servant what is best for him. Thus Gods 
choice is better for him than his own choice for himself. 

Sahl was asked on his death bed: ‘What would you like to be shrouded in, where would you like to 
be buried and who would you like to pray over you after your death?’ He replied: 

I [set about] arranging my affairs during my life and for [after my death], but found there was 
no need for me to attend to them due to the antecedent arrangements ( sabiq tadbir) that God, 
Exalted is He, made for His servant. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[10:12] If trouble should befall a man, he cries out to Us [in supplication], whether lying on his 
side... 

He said: 

Supplication (duff) is freeing oneself ( tabarri ) of everything save Him, Exalted is He . 1 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[10:22] ...Then they pray to God, becoming sincere [in their] faith in Him... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Sincerity ( ikhlas ) is witnessing ( mushahada ). The life of the heart is in two things: in its root 
(asl) it is faith ( iman ), and in its branch (farf it is sincerity. Sincerity is a matter of great 
importance and the one who possesses it is wary lest his sincerity should not prevail till death, 
for actions are [judged] on the ones that come last — Worship your Lord, until what is certain 
comes to you [15:99]. 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[10:25] dnd God summons to the Abode of Peace, and He guides whomsoever He wills to a straight 
path. 

He [Sahl] said: 

The call ( da c wa ) is universal ( c dmma ), but guidance ( hidaya ) is designated ( khdssa ) [for a certain 


1 This is another example of an esoteric interpretation springing from a ‘keynote’. See above, p. 66, n. 14 and IT, p. xxix. 
In their Qur 3 anic context these words are usually understood to refer to the unbeliever who only turns to God and 
petitions Him in times of trouble and difficulty, but when he is relieved of the misfortune, carries on as if he had never 
called out to Him. 

2 What is certain being death. 


88 


io Yunus 


number], and He refers His guidance back to His will ( mashfa ), this being what God, Exalted 
is He, has preordained ( sdbiqat al-qadar ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[10:51] Is it [only then], when it has come to pass, that you will believe therein? Now when [until 

now] you have been hastening it on? 

That is, ‘You hasten to deny Us and remember other than Us, but when you come before Us and 
behold with your eyes the punishment We had promised you, [only then] do you believe, when 
it is [no longer] of [any] benefit [to you].’ For [indeed] all people [on that day] will inevitably 
affirm His oneness in the Hereafter, when the power of [His] essence ( hukm al-dhat) is made 
manifest, and all opposing and rival [deities that have been falsely set up] will be renounced, 
along with the [false] supplications made to them, due to the cessation of doubt and the fear 
of punishment. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[10:58] Say: ‘In the bounty of God, and in His mercy, in that let them rejoice...’ 

That is, in the profession of His oneness and in His Prophet Muhammad %$, just as He said: We 
did not send you except as a mercy to all the worlds [21:107]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[10:62] Assuredly God’s friends, no fear shall befall them, neither shall they grieve. 

Sahl said: 

They are those whom the Messenger of God M described, saying, ‘When they are seen, God is 
remembered.’ 3 They are those who strive in God’s cause, who outstrip others in their [journey- 
ing] towards Him, and whose actions are constantly in conformity ( muwdfaqa ). 4 Those are the 
true believers [8:4]. 

And he [Sahl] said: 

All goodness comes together in four things, and through these they [believers] become ‘Substi- 
tutes’ ( abdal ): 5 an empty stomach, seclusion from people, the night vigil, and observing silence. 

He was asked why the Substitutes (abdal) are called Substitutes. He answered: 

It is because they substitute their spiritual states ( ahwal ) [one for another]. They have submitted 
their bodies to the vigour ( hil ) in their innermost secrets (asrdr ). 6 Then they move from state 
(Ml) to state, and from knowledge ( c ilm) to knowledge, so that they are constantly increasing 
in the knowledge of that which is between them and their Lord. 

He was asked, ‘Who are more excellent, the Mainstays (awtad) or the Substitutes (abdal)?’ He 

answered, ‘The mainstays’. Then he was asked, ‘And how is that?’ He replied: 

It is because the Mainstays have already arrived and their principles (arkan) are well established, 
whereas the Substitutes move from state to state. 


3 Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 6, p. 459; Tirmidhl, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 4, pp. 80, 86. 

4 That is, in conformity with Gods will. 

5 According to Sufi tradition, the abdal or budala 3 (pi. of badal meaning literally substitute’), constitute one degree or 
rank in the spiritual hierarchy of saints or mystics after the time of the Prophet. They are said to be unknown to the 
generality of believers, but have a powerful influence in preserving the order of the universe. Sufi literature varies 
concerning both the different ranks that make up this hierarchy and the numbers within each of these ranks, but one 
that is generally agreed upon is as follows: at the apex of the hierarchy there is one ‘Axis’ or ‘Pole’ ( qutb ), also known 
as ‘Succour’ {ghawth ), who is the axis mundi or spiritual ‘pole’ of the universe; after the Pole come the two ‘Foremost’ 
or ‘Assistants’ ( imaman ); below them come five ‘Mainstays’ (awtad) or ‘Pillars’ or ‘Props’ ( : umud ); then come the seven 
‘Incomparables’ (afrad); then the Substitutes (abdal); and so on down to ten ranks in total. The Substitutes in particular 
are mentioned in a number of hadiths, for which see: Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad (Cairo, 1895), vol 1, p. 112; and Tirmidhl, 
Nawadir al-usul , vol. 1, p. 165; vol. 2, p. 103. For a discussion of this hierarchy see, I. Goldziher, ‘Abdal,’ El 2 , vol. 1, p. 94, 
and J. Chabbi, ‘Abdal’ Elr, vol. m, pp. 173-4. The Mainstays are also discussed in Tustari’s commentary on 7:33, above. 

6 That is, reading akhraju abdanahum c alal-hil (MSS Z515, f. 54b, F638, f. 26a and F3488, f. 227b) instead of c an al-hil, which 
is in the printed edition. 


89 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


[On this subject] Sahl also said: 

I have met with one thousand five hundred veracious [servants of God] ( siddlq ) among whom 
were forty Substitutes ( abdal ) and seven Mainstays ( awtad ), and I found their way ( tarlqa ) and 
method ( madhhab ) to be the same as that which I follow. 

Furthermore, he used to say, ‘I am the proof of God (hujj at Allah) against you in particular and 
against the people in general.’ 

It was [Sahl’s] way and his conduct to be full of gratitude and remember [God] a great deal. He 
was also constant in observing silence and reflection. He would dispute little and was of a generous 
spirit. He led people through his good character, mercy and compassion for them, and by giving 
them good counsel. He held fast to the principle^] ( asl ) [of religion] while putting into practice [the 
rules] that are derived from it (far c ). Truly God filled his heart with light, and invested his speech 
with wisdom. He was among the best of Substitutes, and if we include him among the Mainstays 
he was the Axis ( qutb ) around which the millstone [of the world] revolves. 7 Furthermore, if it were 
not for the fact that no one can be valued alongside the Companions because of their companion- 
ship and witnessing [of the Prophet M], then one would say that he was as one of them. He lived a 
praiseworthy life and died as a stranger in Basra, may God have mercy upon him. 

There was a man who used to keep Sahl’s company called c Abd al-Rahman b. Ahmad. 8 One day he 
said to Sahl, ‘O Abu Muhammad! Sometimes I perform the ablutions for the prayer and the water 
runs between my fingers and becomes rods of gold and silver.’ Then Sahl said: 

O my dear fellow, don’t you know that when an infant cries he is given a rattle to distract himself 
with? So just consider what He is doing. 9 

And he said that he had within his house a room which he called the room for predatory beasts. 
The beasts would approach Sahl, and he would admit them into that room, offer them hospitality 
and feed them some meat, and then let them go free. 10 
His words: 

[10:109] And [Muhammad] follow what is revealed to you, and be steadfast until God gives judge- 
ment, for He is the Best of Judges. 

He [Sahl] said: 

God imposed His rules upon people and assisted them in following them by His favour and 
His omnipotence. Furthermore He directed them to the right guidance ( rushd ) for them with 
His words, And follow what is revealed to you, and be steadfast until God gives judgement, for 
He is the Best of Judges. To be steadfast in following [what is revealed], is to abandon devis- 
ing and self management ( tadbir ), for in this [abandonment] there is now [i.e. in this world] 
deliverance from the vain caprices ( ru c undt ) of the lower self, and later [i.e. in the next world] 
salvation from the shame of transgression. 



7 On qutb see n. 5 above. 

8 Bowering identifies this person as c Abd al-Rahman b. Ahmad al-Marwazi, who appears to have been one of three intimate 
disciples of Tustari. See Mystical Vision, p. 84. 

9 What is probably meant is that the disciple should not be amazed by this phenomenon, but rather he should see it as 
being analogous to a rattle that is given to a child merely to distract him. Thus the disciple should be concentrating on 
making the ablution, not being distracted by the appearance of the water. We have assumed the subject of the doing to 
be God, since this may be a test from Him, an example of the divine ruse ( makr ). See above p. 20, n. 47 and 3:8. 

10 Regarding Sahls relationship with wild animals, see above IT, p. xx. See also Tustarls commentary on 45:13, regarding 
Shaybans relationship with a lion and a wolf. Among other Sufis, Abu al-Hasan al-Kharaqani was reputed to have used 
a lion as a beast of burden and to have tamed snakes. See c Attar, Tadhkirat al-awliya\ pp. 667-8, and Christiane Tortel, 
Paroles dun Soufie: Abul-Hasan Kharaqant (Paris, 1998), pp. 86-7. 


90 


ii Hud 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:1] ...then detailed from One Wise, Informed 1 

That is, He has made clear His promise [of reward] for obedience and His threat of punishment 
for disobedience and for persistence therein. 

His words: 

[11:3] Ask forgiveness of your Lord, and turn to Him in repentance... 

He said: 

Seeking forgiveness ( istighfar ) [entails] the response ( ijaba ), then contrition ( inaba ), then 
repentance ( tawba ), followed by the seeking of forgiveness. The response is [made] outwardly, 
the turning [to God] is through the heart, and repentance is through constantly seeking for- 
giveness for one’s deficiency in these. 2 3 ...He will give you fair enjoyment. He said, ‘Renunciation 
( tark ) of creatures ( khalq ) and drawing near ( iqbdl ) to God.’ 

His words: 

[11:15] He who desires the life of this world and its adornment, We shall repay them their deeds... 
Whoever aspires by his actions ( c amalf to [attain] something other than God, will be granted 
by God the reward of his actions in this world, but there will remain nothing for him in the 
Hereafter. For such a person does not devote his actions purely to God, due to his desire for 
[having] a position in this world. If he but knew that God has placed the world and its people 
at the service of those who desire the Hereafter, he would not be ostentatious about his acts. 
Sahl was asked, ‘What is the hardest thing for the lower self ( nafs)V He replied, ‘Sincerity ( ikhlas ).’ 
He was asked why this was so, and he said, ‘It is because the lower self cannot have a share in it.’ He 
was asked, ‘Does ostentation {riyaf penetrate the obligatory acts?’ He replied: 

Yes, it may even penetrate faith, which is at the root of obligatory acts, so that [faith itself] is 
falsified and becomes hypocrisy. So how then will the acts be? Anyone whose outward conduct 
is not found fault with by a single person but whose real state in his inner self God knows to 
be the contrary, is being ostentatious without a doubt. 4 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:23] ■■■and humble themselves before their Lord... 

That is, their hearts were humbled before their Lord, this being [an indication of] fear ( khashiya ). 
Thus humility is its outward [manifestation] and fear its inner state just as the Messenger M said, 
‘If his heart had become humble his bodily members would have been subdued.’ 5 


1 The first part of this verse reads: AlifLam Ra, a Book whose verses have been set out clearly. 

2 A similar saying is cited in MakkI, Qut al-qulub, vol. 1, p. 335. 

3 This correction was made on the basis of all three MSS (Z515, f. 55b, F638, f. 26b and F3488, f. 228b). In the published 
edition it is bi-ilmihi instead of bi-amalihi in the manuscripts. 

4 In other words, a person may appear to be impeccable as regards his outward conduct, but if God knows his inward 
intentions to be impure, then his conduct amounts to hypocrisy and ostentation. 

5 TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usiil , vol. 3, p. 210; vol. 4, p. 24. 


91 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


It was related of Moses 8SS that he was once castigating the Children of Israel, when a man from 
amongst them tore his shirt apart. Then God, Exalted is He, inspired Moses to say to him [on 
behalf of God], ‘Do not tear your garment for Me; tear your heart for Me!’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:40] ...and the oven gushed forth ... 6 

It was an oven of stone, belonging firstly to Adam and then passing on to Noah, and God made 
the gushing forth of water from it a sign of His punishment. 7 However, He made the gushing 
forth of the wellsprings of the heart of Muhammad SJ with the lights of knowledge of differ- 
ent kinds a [sign of] mercy for his nation, because God, Exalted is He, honoured him with 
this honour. For the light of the prophets SaB is from his [Muhammad’s] light, the light of the 
heavenly dominions is from his light and the light of this world and the Hereafter is from his 
light. 8 Whoever truly desires [God’s] love must follow him. God said to His Prophet J|: Say: 
‘If you love God, follow me, and God will love you [3:31]. Thus has He made love [consist] of 
following him [the Prophet], and has made the reward for His servants who follow him His 
love, which is the highest honour (aid al-kardma ). 

It is related on the authority of Abu Musa al-Ash c ari that he said: ‘While we were with the 
Messenger of God M, he approached us and [turned to] face us as if he wished to tell us some- 
thing. Then he fell into prostration and we prostrated with him at the beginning of the day 
until around midday, such that some of us could taste the earth through our noses and we 
remarked to each other, “The Messenger of God has died.” But then he raised his head and 
said, “God is Great!”, so we said, “God is Great!”. Then someone said to him, “O Messenger of 
God, we thought you had died and if that had been the case we would not have cared if the sky 
fell onto the earth.” He said, “My beloved, the Angel Gabriel 8S® came to me and said to me, 
‘O Muhammad, your Lord greets you with peace and gives you the choice between a third of 
your nation entering Paradise and the right to intercession.’ As I hoped for more than a third, 
I chose intercession and then he rose up and I turned to face you and wanted to inform you 
of it, but he came to me again and said, ‘Your Lord greets you with peace and gives you the 
choice between two thirds of your nation entering Paradise and the right to intercession.’ As I 
hoped for more than two-thirds I chose intercession. Then he rose up and I turned to face you 
intending to inform you of it, but he came to me again and said to me, ‘O Muhammad, verily 
you Lord has granted you intercession for two thirds [of your nation] but has not responded 
to your request regarding the other third.’ Upon this I prostrated in gratitude to God, Exalted 
is He, for what He had granted me.’” 9 
Sahl said: 

The aspirations ( himam ) of mystics reach the veils, where they stop and knock and are given 
admission. They enter and offer greetings, upon which He confers upon them His support 
( tafid ), and [a list] of exemptions are written for them on a parchment. However, the aspira- 
tions of the prophets 3 sB circle around the Throne and are bedecked with lights. Their ranks are 
raised and they are connected with the Compeller ( al-Jabbdr ) who erases their own portions 


6 According to Thalabi, scholars interpreted the oven gushed forth in different ways. c AlI b. Abi Talib stated that it meant, 
‘the dawn arose and filled the morning with light’; Ibn c Abbas identified the oven as the surface of the earth, since the 
Arabs call it ‘oven ( tannur ). Hasan, however, said that it was an oven of stone which had belonged to Adam and was 
then passed on to Noah. Noah was told that when he saw water gushing from the oven, he should embark with his 
companions. See ThaTabi, Ara'is al-majalis , p. 61; trans. Brinner, pp. 95-6. There is a belief among the inhabitants of 
Iraq that the Masjid of Kufa is the site of the oven, see c AlI al-Harawi, Kitab al-Isharat ila ma c rifat al-ziyarat (Damascus, 
1953), P- 78; English trans. J. W. Meri as A Lonely Wayfarers Guide to Pilgrimage (Princeton, 2004), p. 200. 

7 This is a reference to Noah’s flood. 

8 Regarding the light of other prophets being derived from Muhammad’s light, see also Maybudi, Kashf al-asrar, vol. 10, 
p. 202. 

9 Al-Hakim al-Nlsaburl, al-Mustadrak C alal-Sahihayn (Beirut, 1996), vol. 1, pp. 60 and 137; Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 
4, pp. 404 and 410, and vol. 6, pp. 23, 28 and 29. 


92 


u Hud 


( huzuz ), 10 removes their will and makes them [entirely] at His disposal and for Him. 

He also said: 

The endmost ranks of the veracious ( siddiqun ) are the initial states of the prophets SiBI, and 
indeed our Prophet it worshipped God, Exalted is He, in all the states ( ahwdl ) of the prophets. 
Furthermore, there is not a leaf among the leaves of the trees in Paradise that does not have 
the name Muhammad it inscribed on it. It is with him that all things were initiated and it is 
with him that God brought them to a close, and thus he was called the Seal of the Prophets. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:75] For Abraham was forbearing, tender-hearted, and penitent. 

He [Sahl] said: 

God, Exalted is He, gave him [Abraham] a view into the [moments of] activity and repose 
( haraka wa sukun ) of the natural self ( al-nafs al-tabfiyya) * 11 but He did not give him a view of 
His knowledge, for he was either effaced from [the awareness of it] or abiding in it, 12 so that 
neither fear nor hope should leave his soul. 13 Thus, when he remembers it [that knowledge], 
he sighs, and keeps silent regarding the question of the knowledge of his end ( khdtima ), since 
he has no [power of] choosing ( ikhtiydr ) with God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 

Then Sahl said: 

Fear is male and hope is female, and if one iota of the fear of the fearful ( khaffun ) were divided 
among the inhabitants of the earth, they would all attain eternal happiness by it. 

Then he was asked, ‘If that is so, how much fear do the fearful have?’ He replied, ‘It is like a moun- 
tain, a mountain!’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:78] ...Here are my daughters, they are purer for you ... 14 

That is, they are more legitimate for you if you marry them, than [your] committing abomi- 
nable acts. 15 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:88] ...And I do not desire to be different from you in what I forbid you to do ... 16 
He [Sahl] said: 

Every possessor of knowledge (Alim) who has been given knowledge of evil but does not avoid 
it is not a [true] possessor of knowledge. Similarly, whoever has been given knowledge of the 
acts of obedience but does not practise them is not a [true] possessor of knowledge. 


10 That is, whatever pleasure or ‘share’ for themselves there might be in anything (other than God). 

11 Or, ‘everything that it does’, as explained above, p. 66, n. 17. 

12 i.e. subsisting through God’s knowledge, that is, wholly in a state of oneness, beyond the duality that implies a knowing 
subject and object of knowing. Tustari is here implying the concept of annihilation and subsistence, for which later Sufis 
would consistently use the terms fana' and baqa\ However here Tustari is not using these terms but rather the words 
mahw and muthbit. See above, p. 47, n. 36 and IT, p. lix, n. 269. 

13 It is common for Sufis to emphasise the need for the seeker to maintain a balance between fear and hope, for which 
the words usually used are khawf and raja\ At a certain stage, the aspirant will continually alternate between these 
states. See for example QushayrI, Risala, p. 319; c Abd Allah al-Ansari, Sad maydan, text and French translation in Serge 
de Laugier de Beaurecueil, ‘Une ebauche persane des Manazil as-SaTrin: Le Kitab-e Sad maydan de Abdullah Ansar!’, 
Melanges Islamologues d’Archeologie Orientale 2 (1954), p. 61 [30], where Ansar! describes fear and hope as the two wings 
of certainty ( yaqln ), or as being the two pans of the scales of faith. Both Qushayri and Ansar! refer to the tradition that 
fear and hope are like the two wings of the bird of faith; unless it has both wings it cannot fly. In his commentary on 
17:57 below Tustari also cites a hadith emphasising the need to balance fear and hope. 

14 In reference to the Prophet Lot addressing his people. 

15 In this case, it refers to homosexuality. 

16 These are the words of the prophet Jethro (known in Islam as Shu c ayb), and they are generally understood to mean ‘I 
do not wish to be inconsistent by doing myself what I have forbidden you to do.’ 


93 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Somebody asked Sahl, ‘O Abu Muhammad, with whom do you instruct me to sit?’ He replied, ‘With 
one whose limbs [i.e. bodily actions] will guide you, not his tongue.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:91] ...And were it not for your clan (raht), we would have stoned you... 

He said: ‘Muhammad b. Sawwar related on the authority of Abu c Amr b. al- Ala that he said, 
“A raht is a group of people while a nafr, is a group of men among whom there are no women .” 17 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[11:113] And do not incline toward the evildoers... 

That is, ‘Do not rely on anything regarding your religion except my Sunna.’ 



17 According to Lanes lexicon, both the raht and the nafr would comprise between three and ten men. 


94 


12 Yusuf 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:6] . . . And perfect His grace upon you. . . 

This means, ‘By affirming the truth of the dream you had concerning yourself.’ 1 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:18] Yet, comely patience ! 1 
He said: 

Patience with contentment ( rida ). 

He was asked, ‘What is the sign of this?’ He replied, ‘It is not to regret what has happened.’ Then he 
was asked, ‘How can one attain comeliness of patience ( tajammul bi’l-sabr )? He said: 

By knowing that God, Exalted is He, is with you, and by the comfort of the [concomitant sense 
of] well-being ( bi-rdhat aUafiya). Patience may be compared to a bowl which has patience at 
the top and honey underneath. 3 4 
Then he said: 

I am amazed at the one who is not patient. How can he not show patience whatever the situ- 
ation might be ( li’l-hal ), when the Lord of Might says: Surely God is with the patient [8:46] ? 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:21] ...Give him an honourable place. Maybe he will be useful to us...* 

That is, ‘Perhaps he will be an intercessor for us in the Hereafter.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:24] dud she certainly desired him, and he would have desired her [too], had it not been that 
he saw the proof of his Lord. 

That is, with his natural self ( nafs tabfiyya), 5 he desired and inclined towards her, but with his 
divinely supported and protected self ( nafs al-tawftq wa’l-dsma), he desired to escape from 
her and oppose her. This means that his Lord protected him, and if it had not been for the 
protection of his Lord, he would have desired her, inclining towards that to which his lower 
self called [him] . He was protected by witnessing the proof ( burhdn ) of his Lord, Mighty and 
Majestic is He, this being that the angel Gabriel 8SB1 came in the form of Jacob biting on his 

finger, upon which Joseph headed for the door while seeking forgiveness. 6 


1 That is to say, that the dream came true. 

2 The words said by Jacob when Joseph is taken from him by his brothers, who pretend he has been slain by a wolf. 

3 In other words, patience comprises in itself the reward for patience, i.e. the honey, just as the knowledge that God is 
with us comprises in itself a sense of comfort and well-being. 

4 The words said by Potiphar to his wife Zulaykha after they have purchased Joseph as a slave. 

5 It is possible that Tustari is here referring to what he elsewhere defines as nafs al-tab c . See above, IT, pp. xxxviiiff. 

6 An expression frequently used in Islamic literature is that a person ‘bites the finger’ of amazement, wonder, consterna- 
tion or, in this case, horror. This is among several traditions relating the nature of the proof of his Lord that Joseph saw. 
See Tabari’s commentary on 12:24, for example. 


95 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:42] ‘...Mention me to your lord ...’ 7 
He [Sahl] said: 

It has been related that the angel Gabriel S 3 visited Joseph in prison and said to him, ‘O 
pure one, son of the pure one, verily God, Exalted is He, has honoured me through you and 
through your forefathers, and He says to you, “Joseph, did you not feel shame before Me for 
having sought intercession from someone other than Me? By My Might, I am going to make 
you remain in prison for several years more.’” He [Joseph] asked Gabriel, ‘Is He pleased with 
me?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’ So he said, ‘Then I do not mind.’ 

c AlI b. Abi Talib 4 &, used to say: ‘I and my self are nothing but a shepherd and his flock, each 
time he gathers them in on one side, they disperse from the other.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:53] ‘Yet I do not exculpate my own soul; verily the soul is ever inciting to evil ...’ 6 
He [Sahl] said: 

Truly, the [evil-]inciting self ( nafs ammara ) is lust ( shahwa ), which is the role played by man’s 
[basic] nature ( tab‘ ); ‘. . . unless my Lord shows mercy’, is the role played by the [divine] protection 
( c isma ). The self at peace ( nafs mutma’inna ) is the self of gnosis ( nafs al-ma‘rifa ). 9 God, Exalted 
is He, created the self and made ignorance its nature (tab c ) and made desire ( hawa ) the closest 
thing to it. He also made desire the door by which man’s ruin enters. 

Sahl was asked about the meaning of [a person’s] nature (tabf and how one might necessarily 
acquire protection from it. He said: 

Human nature (tab‘) comprises four natural dispositions ( tabdf ): the first is the animal dispo- 
sition ( tab‘ al-bahcTim ), that of the stomach and genitals; the second is the satanic disposition 
( tab‘ al-shaydtin), that of play (la‘b) and diversion ( lahw ); the third is the sorcerous disposition 
( tab‘ al-sahara ), that of delusion ( makr ) and deception ( khidcT ); and the fourth is the devil- 
ish nature ( tab‘ al-abdlisa), that of refusal (ibc?) and arrogance ( istikbar ). [Divine] protection 
(‘isma) against the animal disposition is through faith ( imdn ). Safety (saldma) from the satanic 
disposition is through glorification ( tasbih ) and sanctification [of God] ( taqdis ), which is the 
natural disposition of angels. Safety from the sorcerous disposition is through truthfulness 
( sidq ), sincere counsel ( nasiha ), equity ( insdf) and graciousness ( tafaddul ). Safety from the 
devilish nature is through taking refuge ( iltijd ’) in God, Exalted is He, by humbly imploring him 
(tadarruf and crying out to Him ( sardkh ). The nature of the intellect (‘aql) is to have knowledge 
but the nature of the lower self (nafs) is ignorance. The natural disposition of [human] nature 
is [to make] pretentious claims (da‘wa). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:36] And there entered the prison with him two [chivalrous] youths (fatayan)... 

He [Sahl] said: 

God, Exalted is He, said [ chivalrous ] youths because neither of them was excessive in his claim. 10 
Rather they gave what was theirs over to their companion and for this He called them fatayan. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:52] That is so that he may know that I did not betray him behind his back ... 11 

7 Said by Joseph to one of his fellow prisoners who was about to be released, your lord being a reference to the king. 

8 These are words said by Joseph, after the king (on his insistence) has summoned the women of Egypt, who exonerate 
him. See also p. 96, n. 11 below. 

9 For Tustarl’s discussion of nafs mutma'inna see his commentary on 2:260. On the different levels of the nafs again see 
above, IT, pp. xli-xlii. 

10 The verbal root f-t-w, from which the word fatayan (dual form of sing .fata) is derived, has the meaning ‘to be youthful’, 
but also ‘to compete with or surpass another in generosity’. 

11 These are the words spoken by Joseph, when he sets the condition before interpreting the king’s dream, that the king 


96 


12 Yusuf 


He [Sahl] said: 

[That is], ‘I did not breach my contract, nor did I disclose a secret [of his] that was concealed.’ 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:67] ■■■On him I rely ... 12 

He [Sahl] was asked, ‘What is the reality of complete trust [in God] (tawakkuiy. He replied, ‘It is 
to be at ease ( istirsal ) with whatever God, Exalted is He, wants.’ Then he was asked, ‘What are the 
requisites of complete trust?’ He said, ‘The first is knowledge and its reality is acting [on it].’ Then 
he said: 

Truly the person who has complete trust [in God] ( mutawakkil ), when he attains it in reality 
(' dld’l-haqiqa ), does not eat any food in the knowledge that there is someone who has more of 
a right to it than himself. 13 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:88] ...They said, ‘O mighty Governor, misfortune has befallen us and our family .’... 14 

That is, ‘O great king’, and its inner meaning is: ‘O you, the one who has conquered himself, 
just as God, Exalted is He, has said, And overpowered me with his words [38:23], meaning, he 
conquered me through them. 15 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:85] ■ ..until you are consumed 16 

It was related from ‘All that he said, ‘The word harad means affliction due to pain in the heart.’ 
Ibn ‘Abbas said, ‘ Harad is [severe sickness] close to death. Sahl said: 

It means being impaired (fasid ) in body and in deed because of grief. His grief was only on 
account of Joseph’s religion and not for the sake of [Joseph] himself, for he knew that if he died 
upon his religion he would be united with him in the Hereafter that is everlasting, but if he 
changed his religion they would never be united ever again. 17 It was related from Sufyan that 
he said, ‘Verily when the one bringing good tidings [of Joseph] came to Jacob $40, he asked 
him, “What was his religion when you left him?” He replied, “It was the religion of submission 
to God ( isldm ).” So Jacob said, “Now the blessing is complete.’” 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:86] ...I complain of my anguish and grief only to God... 

That is, ‘My anxiety ( hamm ) and sorrow ( huzn )’. 

Sahl said: 

Jacob’s grief was not over Joseph, but it [his grief] was an expression of the deep emotion ( wajd ) 
he felt in his heart after being separated from Joseph. For he asked himself, ‘How great would 


should first obtain the truth from the women of Egypt about what happened. The women then exonerate Joseph, while 
Zulaykha admits that it was she who tried to seduce him, and that he was truthful. 

12 These are words that are said by Jacob when he sends his sons to fetch back Benjamin, whom Joseph has detained in 
Egypt. 

13 i.e. is more in need of it. 

14 Josephs brothers are appealing to him as the person in charge of the storehouse of Egypt on account of the famine they 
have been suffering in Canaan. 

15 The word that has been translated in 12:85 as mighty Governor, in the Arabic c aziz, is variously translated as ‘Ruler, ‘Court 
Officer’ and ‘King’. In order to explain the esoteric significance of the use of the word c aztz here, Tustarl has drawn on 
38:23, in which the words wa c azzani have the meaning of ‘he overpowered’ or conquered me’. 

16 These are the words of warning spoken by Joseph’s brothers to Jacob, on account of the magnitude of his grieving over 
the absence of Joseph. 

17 In other words, Jacob was not grieving for the loss of Joseph’s soul, but for the [potential] loss of Joseph’s religion. Tustari 
is thus, among Sufi commentators, one of the early apologists for Jacob’s intense grieving in separation from Joseph. 
Several of the early comments included in Sulaml’s Haqa'iq al-tafsir, for example, state that Jacob lost his sight because 
he was grieving for a human being. See A. Keeler, ‘Joseph, in Exegesis’ Elr, vol. xv, fasc. 1. 


97 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


be the feelings I would experience if I were to be separated from God, Mighty and Majestic is 
He, when separation from a creature had caused me to act in such a way?’ So he complained 
of his distraction and anguish to God, Exalted is He, and to no one else. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:80] ...The most senior of them said... 

That is, in intellect, not age. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:87] ■■■And do not despair of God’s [gracious] spirit... 

The best and highest form of service ( khidma ) is waiting for relief ( intizdr al-faraf) from God, 
Exalted is He, as it has been related from Ibn TJmar that the Prophet Jt said: ‘Waiting for 
relief with patience is worship ( c ibdda)! ls The relief for which one waits is of two kinds: one is 
close ( qarib ) and the other distant (bald). That which is close is in the secret that is between 
the servant and his Lord. That which is distant relates to [that which is between] people, and 
whoever looks to [relief that is] far away is veiled from what is close at hand. 19 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:101] ‘...Take me [in death] in a state of submission [to You], and join me to the virtuous .’ 10 

Sahl said: 

This entails three things: asking for what is necessary, manifesting one’s poverty, and choosing 
what is obligatory. 21 What is meant is: ‘Let me die as one who has committed his affairs over 
to You and handed over his concerns to You, so that I have no recourse to my lower self under 
any condition, and do not resort to managing things [for myself] ( tadbir ) by means of any 
secondary cause ( sabab ) whatsoever. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:106] And most of them do not believe in God without ascribing partners [to Him]. 

He [Sahl] said: 

This is referring to the association [of others with God] (shirk) by the self which incites to evil 
( nafs ammdra), as was [indicated] when the Prophet S said, ‘Association [of others with God] 
(shirk) in my nation is more hidden than the creeping of an ant over a stone.’ 22 This is the 
inner meaning of the verse. However, the outer meaning of the verse refers to the fact that the 
polytheists among the Arabs believe in God, just as He has said, If you ask them, who created 
them, they will certainly say ‘God’... [43:87] Even so they are polytheists who believe in some 
of the messengers but do not believe in others. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[12:108] I call to God being upon sure knowledge... 

That is, ‘I convey the message, but I am not in possession of guidance. The guidance is up to You.’ 23 


18 BayhaqI, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 7, p. 204. 

19 The meaning here appears to be that people who look for relief from [other] people, are waiting for relief from afar, 
whereas the relief that is from God within the innermost secret of the human being is close at hand. People will be 
veiled from the relief from God that is within them if they look for relief elsewhere. 

20 This is part of Josephs prayer, with which the narration of the story of Joseph in Sura 12 finishes. Tustaris comment 
appears to be referring more generally to prayer (supplication). 

21 What Tustari probably means here is: that we should ask only for what God deems necessary for us; that we should 
manifest our real situation of poverty and utter neediness for Him; and that we should choose only what is obligatory 
for us according to the religious law. 

22 Nlsaburi, al-Mustadrak, vol. 2, p. 319; Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 4, p. 147; c Abd al- c Az!m al-Mundhiri, al-Targhlb 
wal-tarhib (Beirut, 1996), vol. 4, p. 16. 

23 That is, I am not in control of it. 


98 


12 Yusuf 


Sahl was asked about the words of the Prophet H: ‘The effort of a striving person cannot avail him 
against You.’ He said: 

Whoever is assiduous in his quest, but finds his assiduity (jidd) is met by an impediment ( manf 
from You, will not be benefitted by striving in his quest. 

And he said: 

For sure, the inner truth [or secret, sirr] has not been revealed to people, for if it were disclosed 
to them then they would have perceived it. Nor have they witnessed [it], for if they had wit- 
nessed it, the whole matter would be over, and that is a grave matter . 24 
Then he [Sahl] said: 

The People of ‘There is no God but God’ are many but the sincere among them are few. But 
God knows best. 



24 This saying recalls one of the statements included in Ibn al-Farra 3, s refutation of the Salimiyya, for which see above, IT, 
p. xxii, n. 72. 


99 


13 Al-Ra c d 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[13:11] For him are attendants (niu aqqibat) in front of him and behind him, guarding him by 

God’s command... 

The meaning of mu c aqqibdt is the angels of the night and day, which come one after the other 
in succession. 1 Guarding him by God’s command..., that is, [preserving] all the good and evil 
things that He has determined for His servant. 2 Furthermore, they bear witness for [the servant] 
with fidelity (wafaf, and against him with severity (jofc?) on the Day of Resurrection. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[13:12] It is He that shows you the lightning [inspiring] fear and hope... 

He [Sahl] said: 

The following saying is related from Ibn c Abbas A: ‘Thunder is an angel and it is his voice 
that you hear. 3 As for the lightning, it is a whip of light by which the angel drives the clouds.’ 
Mujahid also said this. It is reported that c AlI b. Abi Talib 4® said: ‘Lightning is that with which 
the angels drive [the clouds] ( makhariq ), and thunder is the voice of an angel.’ Qatada said: 
‘Thunder is the sound of the clouds.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[13:13] And the thunder proclaims His praise, and so too the angels are in awe of Him... 

Thus does He make special mention of the angels. Tkrima said: ‘Thunder is an angel who has 
been put in charge of the clouds; he drives them along just as a camel herder would do his camels.’ 
Ka c b reported from c Umar 4® that he said, ‘I heard the Messenger of God M say: “Truly, God 
creates clouds so they speak with the most excellent speech and laugh with a most excellent 
laugh. Their speech is thunder and their laughter is lightning.’” Abu Bakr said that he asked 
him $|, ‘What would you say regarding a day on which there is a heavy downpour and the 
sound of the thunder is violent?’ He replied, ‘This is a report of God’s good pleasure ( rida ), 
Mighty and Majestic is He, so how must be the report of His wrath ( ghadab ). Let us seek refuge 
in God from His wrath.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[13:28] ...Truly, it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace. 

[In] remembrance ( dhikr ) with knowledge (Him) there is tranquil repose ( sukun ), and [in] 
remembrance with intellect ( c aql ) there is profound peace ( tuma’nina ). 4 


1 Thus the word mu c aqqibat is related to the idea of one angels ‘watch’ succeeding the other as day succeeds night and 
night day (see Lane regarding meanings of the root c -q-b). On angels according to Islamic tradition, see D. B. Macdonald 
and W. Madelung, ‘Mala'ika’, El 2 , vol. vi, p. 216. 

2 Perhaps in the sense that they administer what is conferred on them by Israfil from the Guarded Tablet ( lawh mahfuz). 
For which see above IC, p. 5 and n. 22. 

3 The MSS Z515, f. 60b and F3488, f. 233a have yasmtfuna, whereas F638, f. 28b and the printed edition have tasma c una. 

4 As was stated above (p. 30, n. 92), the word tuma’nina or ipnfruin has the meaning of a calmness and tranquillity which 
is associated with a deep sense of confidence, reassurance and trust. In the context of 2:260, it was discussed regarding 
Abrahams request for his heart to find reassurance through certainty. On Tustari’s view of c aql, see IT, p. xlv. 


100 


13 Al-Ra c d 


He [Sahl] was asked, ‘And how is that?’ He replied: 

If a servant is maintaining [true] obedience to God, he will be in a state of remembrance ( dhakir ), 
but when something occurs to his mind, he will be in a state of severance ( qatf ) [from God] . If 
he is involved in an act [motivated by] his lower self, and something comes to his heart which 
guides him to remembrance and obedience, this is the role played by the intellect ( mawdf al-aql). 
Then he said: 

Anyone who claims to practise remembrance falls into one of two types. There are those whom 
the fear of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, never leaves, but who also experience love ( hubb ) 
and fervour ( nashat ) in their hearts. They are truly people of remembrance and they live for 
God, the Hereafter, knowledge and the Sunna. Then there are those who claim to be in a state 
of fervour, joy and happiness in every situation. They are living for the enemy, this world, 
ignorance, and innovation and they are the worst of people. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[13:36] ...Say, ‘I have been commanded to worship God, and not to associate anything with Him...’ 
Sahl was asked: ‘When does the servant prove true in the station of servanthood ( c ubudiyya)V He 
replied: 

When he gives up his own management ( tadbir ) and becomes satisfied with the management 
of God, Exalted is He, for him . 5 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[13:39] God erases whatever He will and He fixes whatever He will, and with Him is the Mother 
of the Book. 

He [Sahl] said: 

God erases what He wills in the realm of [secondary] causes ( asbab ), and fixes what is decreed. 
And with Him is the Mother of the Book. It is the irrevocable decree ( qadd ) to which nothing 
may be added and from which nothing may be taken away . 6 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[13:43] And he who possesses knowledge of the Book. 

Sahl said: 

The Book is noble ( c aziz ), and knowledge of the Book is even nobler, as is acting by it [that 
knowledge]. Action is noble, but sincerity in action is nobler still. Sincerity ( ikhlas ) is noble, but 
witnessing ( mushahada ) in [the state of] sincerity is nobler. Being in conformity ( muwafaqa ) 7 
is noble, but intimacy ( uns ) in conformity is even nobler. Intimacy is noble, but the proprie- 
ties ( adab ) which are appropriate to intimacy are nobler still . 8 And God, Transcendent and 
Exalted is He, knows best. 



5 On the danger of relying on ones own devising, planning and management of things (tadbir), see Tustaris commentary 
on 2:30, 3:155 and 7:20 above. For a broader discussion of this doctrine in Tustaris Tafsir, see IT, pp. xxxiv-xxxv. 

6 On the Mother of the Book, see above Tustaris commentary on 2:235 and p. 27, n. 84. 

7 That is according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 61a, F638, f. 29a and F3488, f. 233b, as opposed to murafaqa in the printed 
edition. 

8 What may be meant here is that the person who is in a state of intimacy [with God] does not lose their sense of awe at 
His transcendence and glory. See the comment on 13:28 above concerning those whom the fear of God never leaves, even 
though they have love and longing in their hearts, and whom Tustari sees as truly being the people of remembrance. 


101 


14 Ibrahim 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[14:7] If you are thankful then assuredly I will give you more... 

He [Sahl] said: 

Gratitude ( shukr ) for knowledge is acting ( c amal ) [on this knowledge ]. 1 Gratitude for acting [on 
this knowledge] increases [ones] knowledge . 2 This is how it always is, and this is its condition. 
He also said: 

Gratitude is that you should acknowledge [that] increase . 3 Otherwise gratitude is flawed. The 
true realisation of weakness ( haqiqat al-ajz ) is in acknowledging it. It is reported that David, SSSS 
said, ‘How can I thank You when through my gratitude I receive renewed bounty from You?’ 
God replied, ‘Now you have shown true gratitude towards me .’ 4 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[14:11] ...But God favours whomever He will of His servants... 

That is, [He favours them] with [the ability to] recite (tildwa) His Book and understand (fahm ) it. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[14:19] Have you not seen that God created the heavens and Earth in truth?... 

He [Sahl] said: 

He created all things through His omnipotence ( qudra ), adorned them through His knowledge 
(Him), and governed them through His wisdom ( hikma ). Thus, to the one who contemplates 
the Creator through the creation, the wonders of the creation will become apparent. But to 
the one who contemplates the creation through the Creator, the traces of His omnipotence, 
the lights of His wisdom and the extent and profundity ( baligh ) of His workmanship ( san c a ) 
will be unveiled. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[14:25] It produces its fruit every season (hin), by leave of its Lord... 

He [Abu Bakr al-Sijzi] said, ‘Ibn al-Musayyib used to say the word hin is six months. A man posed 
the question: “I have sworn an oath that my wife will not visit her family for a hin. So what is a 
hin?” Sa c d said, “The hin lasts from the time that the date palm flowers until the time that its dates 


1 Lit. ‘Gratitude for knowledge is action. That is, either that gratitude is manifested by our acting according to our knowledge, 
or that by having gratitude we are granted ‘gratitudes increase’ through the ability to act according to our knowledge. 

2 That is, gratitude for having acted according to our knowledge, which is only by the grace of God. This statement recalls 
the tradition that whoever acts according to their knowledge will be given knowledge that they did not have, a tradition 
which is cited by MakkI in his Qut al-qulub, vol. 1, p. 217. 

3 Translating al-shukr an tara al-mazld according to all three MSS Z515, f. 61b, F638, f. 29a and F3488, f. 233b, instead of 
al-shukr an turldal-mazld. The former seems more plausible in the context. It is worth bearing in mind that the word 
ra^a can have the meaning of seeing in the sense of experiencing as well as seeing in the sense of recognising, acknowl- 
edging. 

4 David’s recognition that his state of gratitude is necessarily accompanied by increase thus demonstrates both his true 
gratitude, and his true awareness of humanity’s incapacity to experience or express gratitude that is free of God’s favour 
and infinite bounty. 


102 


14 Ibrahim 


ripen, or from the time that its dates ripen until it blossoms.” Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Kulla bin means 
morning and night.” He is of the same view as Sahl Ibn c Abd Allah who said, “God coined this 
similitude referring to the people who have gnosis ( malrifa ) of God with regard to their performing 
His obligations night and day.”’ 

Sahl was asked about the meaning of His words: 

[14:24] Have you not seen how God has coined a similitude? A goodly saying is as a goodly tree; its 
roots set firm and its branches in heaven. 

He replied: 

It was related from Ibn ‘Abbas 4 i that the Prophet J8 went out to his Companions while they 
were discussing the goodly tree’, and he #g said: ‘That is the believer whose root is in the earth 
and whose branch is in heaven.’ This means that his works are raised to the heavens and accepted. 
This is the similitude that God coined for the believer and the disbeliever. So He said, A goodly 
saying, that is, a saying of sincerity ( ikhlds ), is as a goodly tree, that is, the date palm; its roots 
set firm and its branches in heaven, that is, its branches rise up to heaven. Likewise the root of 
the works of a believer are in the saying [which attests to] God’s oneness ( kalimat al-tawhid), 
which is a firm root whose branches, his works, are raised up to the heavens and accepted, 
unless there is some deficiency or ill-effect ( ihdath ) in them. However, even then the root of 
his actions, namely the saying which attests to God’s oneness, is not removed, just as the winds 
shake the branches of the date palm, but its root remains firmly in place. 

He likened the actions of a disbeliever to a foul tree ( shajara khabitha ), saying but an evil saying 
is as a bad tree [14:26], meaning the colocynth tree (banzai). It is the foulest on the earth, for 
it has no roots at all beneath it. Just so is disbelief and hypocrisy, which have no endurance in 
the Hereafter. Thus, in the treasure houses of God, there is nothing greater than the attestation 
of God’s oneness ( tawhid ). 

Sahl was asked about the meaning of ‘There is no god save God’ (la ildha illd’Lldh). He said: ‘There 
is no bestower of benefit (ndfif and no defender (dafif except God, Exalted is He.’ 

He was asked about isldm, imdn and ihsan . 5 He answered: 

Islam is the law (hukm), imdn is the bond [with God] (wash) and ihsan is the reward ( thawdb ); 
and for that reward there is a reward. Isldm is the affirmation (iqrar), and that is outward, 
imdn pertains to the unseen; and ihsan is devotion ( tdabbud ) — or he might have said: imdn 
is certainty (yaqin). 

He [Sahl] was also asked about the code of laws of Islam and he said: 

The scholars have spoken about it, and at great length too. However it can be summarised in 
two precepts (kalimatan): And take whatever the Messenger gives you, and abstain from whatever 
he forbids you [59:7]. 

Then he said: 

It can be summarised in one precept: Whoever obeys the Messenger verily obeys God [4:80]. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[14:34] ...If you tried to enumerate God’s favour[s] you could never calculate them... 

due to the fact that He has made the Emissary the most elevated, and the greatest mediator 
(wdsita) between you and Him. 



5 The three levels of isldm, imdn and ihsan are raised in the so-called ‘Hadith of Gabriel’ ( hadith Jibril). On this hadith 
see above IT, p. lviii, n. 265. 


103 


15 Al-Hijr 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:3] Leave them to eat and enjoy [themselves]. Let them be diverted by [false] hope; for they will 

come to know. 

He [Sahl] said: 

If four [traits] come together in a servant, it will be said to him, ‘Truly, you will not attain any- 
thing in this affair’: 1 if he likes to eat tasty food, dress in fine clothes, see his command executed 
and his possessions increase. Of such a one it will be said, ‘Alas, this is the one who was cut off 
from God, Exalted is He, by the creation.’ It has been related that God revealed to David S SB 
the following: ‘Caution and warn your companions about the gratification [lit. consuming, akl ] 
of one’s carnal desires ( shahawdt ), for verily if hearts are attached to the desires of this world, 
their intellects ( c uqul ) will be veiled from Me.’ 2 

Sahl [then] said: 

Hope ( amal ) is the soil of every transgression ( mafiya ); cupidity ( hirs ) is the seed of every 
transgression, and procrastination ( taswif) is the water of every transgression. Strength ( qudra ) 
is the soil of every act of obedience ( ta c a ), certainty ( yaqin ) is the seed of every act of obedience 
and action {[amal) is the water of every act of obedience. 

He [probably Abu Bakr al-Sijzi] said: 

Sahl used to intensify his ecstasy ( wajd ) for seventy days, during which he would not eat 
anything, while he would order his companions to eat meat once a week so that they would 
not become too weak for worship. However for him, when he ate he would become weak, and 
when he became hungry he would gain in strength. He would sweat during the severe cold of 
winter while wearing only one shirt. If they asked him a question on knowledge he would say, 
‘Don’t ask me questions, for you cannot benefit from my speech at this time.’ Abbas b. Tsam 
came one day while Sahl was saying, ‘For thirty years I have been speaking to God while people 
imagine that I’m speaking to them.’ 3 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:40] [All] except those servants of Yours who are sincerely devoted to You. He [Sahl] said: 

All people are dead, except the learned ( c ulama f among them; all the learned are asleep, except 
those among them who act; all those who act are deluded, except the sincere ( mukhlisun ) among 
them, and the sincere are in great danger. 4 

1 i.e. in the spiritual path. 

2 This saying appears in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 5, p. 382. 

3 In his Mathnavl-yi mcfnavi, Rumi attributes a similar saying to the third/ninth-century mystic Abu Yazid al-Bistami 
(commonly referred to in the Persian form of his name as Bayazid Bastami): ‘During all these years, I have never spoken 
to any creature or heard any creature speak to me; but people fancy ( pindarand ) that I am speaking to them, because 
they do not see the Great Speaker, of whom they in relation to me are only the echo.’ See Jalal al-DIn Rumi, Mathnavl-yi 
ma c navi, Bk. 5, title preceding line 1683, trans. Reynold A. Nicholson. The saying appears in a different form attributed to 
Bayazid in Maybudi’s Kashf al-asrar, vol. 8, p. 520: ‘Bayazid said, “For forty years I have not spoken to people; whatever 
I said was to God, and whatever I heard was from God.’” 

4 Maybudi provides some sort of explanation for this saying: al-mukhlisiina c ala khatarin c azlmin, in a passage in which 


104 


15 Al-Hijr 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:72] ...In their drunkenness they were bewildered. 

That is, in their ignorance (jahl) and error ( dalala ) they disobey. Know that all acts of disobedi- 
ence maybe attributed to ignorance, and [all] ignorance maybe attributed to intoxication [with 
the world]. It is said that it [the world] is just like [an] intoxicating drink ( muskir ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:75] Indeed, in that there are signs for those who take note (mutawassimin). 

He [Sahl] said: 

That is, those of spiritual perception (mutafarrisin) . Indeed, it was related from Abu SaTd 
al-Khudrl 4 ® that the Prophet M said: ‘Beware of the spiritual perception (firdsa ) of the believer, 
for verily he sees with the light of God.’ Then he recited, ‘Indeed in that there are signs for those 
who take note ’. * * * * 5 His meaning was those who can see into ( mutafarrisun ) the secrets (sardlr), 
and an example of this is when ‘Umar 4 ® said to Sariya: ‘The mountain, the mountain!’ 6 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:85] ...So be forgiving with gracious forgiveness. 

He [Abu Bakr al-SijzI] said, ‘Muhammad b. Hanafryya related from ‘All 4 ® that regarding His words, 
So be forgiving with gracious forgiveness, he said: “It is contentment ( rida ) without reproval ( c itab ).’” 
And Sahl said: 

[One should be] without resentment ( hiqd ) or censure ( tawbikh ) after forgiving someone; this 
is to overlook [someone’s misdeeds] graciously (Trad jamil). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:91] Those who have reduced the Recitation (Qur’an) to parts. 

He [Sahl] said: 

The outward meaning of the verse is as the commentators have explained. 7 8 However, its inner 
meaning concerns the rules ( ahkam ) that God, Exalted is He, sent down regarding our hearing, 
sight and heart[s] (fu'dd ), [referred to] in His words, Exalted is He: Indeed, the hearing, the 
sight and the heart, each of these it will be asked [17:36]. Thus, they turned away from acting by 
it, inclining towards the demands of their natural self (nafs al-tab c ). s 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:92] By your Lord, We will question them all, 


he contrasts those who are mukhlis (the active participle), i.e. purifying themselves, and those who are mukhlas (the 

passive participle), i.e. those who are liberated [from themselves by God], and he compares the situation of the former 

to the one who is in suluk (making his way) and the latter to the one who is in jadhb (or jadhb a) drawn by a rapture 
from God. As long as a person is making their own way, and not freed from themselves, they are in great danger. See 

Maybudi, Kashf al-asrar, vol. 6, p. 62, and for an explanation of this doctrine, Keeler, Sufi Hermeneutics, pp. 219-23. 

5 TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 3, p. 86; Tirmidhi, Sunan, ‘Kitab Tafsir al-Qur’an; Tabarani, al-Mu c jam al-awsat, vol. 
3, p. 312 and vol. 8, p. 23. Firdsa often manifests itself as a form of physiognomy’, the ability to understand a persons 
feelings or disposition from their outward appearance — the Sufi shaykh’s being a spy of hearts’. But it may also have 
the meaning of being able to perceive things over long distances, as will be seen in the example Tustarl cites below. On 
firdsa, see also Tustari’s commentary on 7:46 and p. 73, n. 12. 

6 According to tradition, c Umar b. al-Khattab was delivering the sermon at Friday prayer, and was able to perceive great 
danger facing the commander Sariya, who was leading the Muslim army thousands of miles away in Persia: the enemy 
were about to assault them from behind the mountain, so he cried out, ‘O Sariya, the mountain, the mountain!’ 

7 The word quFan here is understood by commentators to refer to the revelations of the Christians and Jews, which were 
recited out loud as was the Qur'an. According to traditions cited in the commentary on 15:91 in Tabari’s Jam? al-bayan, 
they (specified either as People of the Book, or as Christians and Jews) divided the scripture in parts, believing in some 
and disbelieving in others. 

8 Thus they selected from the scripture what they wanted, and followed only that which suited their lower desires. We 
have already seen mention of the natural self (as nafs al-tab c , nafs tablHyya or nafs al-jibilla ) in Tustari’s commentary on 
2.30, 4:36, 4:47, 7:187, 11:75, 12:24 and 15:91; and of the spiritual self ( nafs al-ruh ) in his commentary on 9:29. He discusses 
the respective roles of these two aspects of the self later in the Tafsir. 


105 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

In this verse there is specificity ( khusiis ) [within the all] . For indeed there are among this nation 
( umma ) those who are gathered up from their graves [and taken] directly to Paradise, who 
do not attend the reckoning ( hisdb ), or experience any of the horrors [of the day]. They are 
those of whom God, Exalted is He, says, they will be kept away from it [21:101]. 9 And indeed 
the Prophet said: ‘Verily, the friends of God ( awliya ' Allah) leave their graves for Paradise 
and they do not stop for the reckoning, nor do they fear the length of that day. They are the 
first to reach Paradise. God is well-pleased with them and they are well-pleased with Him. That 
is the great triumph [5:119].’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[15:94] So, proclaim what you have been commanded... 

That is, ‘Recite the Qur'an openly in the prayer, as We have revealed it to you.’ 

He was asked: ‘What is revelation (wahy)V He said: 

It is clandestine [speech] ( mastur ). 10 God has said, Exalted is He: They suggest alluring words to 
each other [6:112], that is, they confide in one another. It can also carry the meaning of inspira- 
tion ( ilhdm ), just as when God, Exalted is He, says: And your Lord revealed to the bee [16:68], 
meaning: He gave it inspiration. * 11 
His words: 

[15:97, 98] And verily We know that your heart is [at times] oppressed by what they say, 0 But 
celebrate the glory of your Lord. . . 

That is, ‘Pray to God, Exalted is He, and remember Him’, for it is as if God, Exalted is He, had 
said to him: ‘If your heart is weighed down because of your proximity to the disbelievers and 
the calumny of that which they are ascribing to Us in the way of adversaries, rivals and partners 
through their ignorance and envy, then return to the state of witnessing Us ( mushahada ) and 
proximity to Us ( qurb ) through remembering Us, truly it is with Us that you have proximity, 
and it is in remembering and witnessing Us that your happiness [lies] . Furthermore, have 
forbearance with this [suffering], for in it [that forbearance] is My good pleasure ( rida ). 12 
It was related that Moses 8SB said: ‘O my Lord! Guide me to an action by which I will gain 
Your good pleasure.’ 

He continued: 

Then God sent the revelation to him: ‘O son of Imran, truly My good pleasure is in [subjecting 
you to] what you detest, [but] you will not be able to bear that.’ 

He then said: 

Then Moses 8SB fell down in prostration, weeping and said: ‘O Lord! You privileged me with 
[hearing] Your speech, for You did not speak to any human being before me, yet You have 
not guided me to an action by which I can gain Your good pleasure.’ Then God, Exalted is 
He, revealed to him saying: ‘Verily My good pleasure is in your contentment with My decree 
( ridaTft ridaka bi-qadct'i)’. 



9 The whole of this verse reads: Indeed those to whom [the promise of] the best reward went beforehand from Us, they will 
be kept away from it. 

10 i.e. concealed from all save those who are designated to receive it. 

11 On wahy, see A. J. Wensinck. ‘Wahy,’ El 2 , vol. xi, p. 53; and on ilhdm, see D. B. Macdonald, ‘Ilham’, El 2 , vol. 111, p. 1119. 

12 That is, translating rida'ifthi according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 64b, F638, f. 30a and F3488, f. 236b, instead of ridcfifika 
in the published edition. 


106 


16 Al-Nahl 


He was asked about His words, Exalted is He: 

[16:8] ...And He creates what you do not know [about]. 

He said: 

Regarding the outward meaning of the verse, it is as Ibn "Abbas related, that the Prophet IS 
said: Among the things which God, Exalted is He, has created is an earth ( ard ) made from white 
pearl with a length of a thousand years and a width of a thousand years. 1 There is a mountain 
on it made of red ruby and that planet is surrounded by a sky. On it there is an angel who has 
filled its space from East to West, who has 660,000 heads, each head having 660,000 mouths 
and each mouth having 660,000 tongues, and each of these tongues praises God, Exalted is 
He, 660,000 times a day. When the Day of Resurrection arrives he [that angel] will behold 
the greatness ( c azama ) of God, Exalted is He, and say: “By Your might and majesty, I have not 
worshipped You as You deserve to be worshipped.”’ God has said, Exalted is He: And He creates 
what you do not know [ about]. The inner meaning of these words [is that] God, glorified be His 
majesty, has taught you to restrain yourself when your intellect ( c aql ) fails to grasp the effects 
of [His] creation and the multifarious dimensions of [His] knowledge (funun al-Tlm), so that 
it [your intellect] does not meet them with denial ( inkdr ), 2 for He has created what you do not 
know about, neither you nor anyone else among His creatures, except those whom God has 
taught, Mighty and Majestic is He. 3 

He was asked about His words: 

[16:11, 12] ...and all kinds of fruit . ..0 [And He disposed for you the night and the day and the sun 

and the moon and the stars.] Surely in that there are signs... 

He said: 

This is because the crops [mentioned] are of one species [i.e. fruit], whereas the night and day 
are two kinds, and likewise are the sun and moon. And He said: ...signs in this for people who 
understand (ya qilun) [16:12]. Know that God, Exalted is He, when He wished to make His 
knowledge apparent, deposited His knowledge in the intellect ( c aql ). Then He ruled that no 
one could have access to any of it [His knowledge] except through the intellect. Thus whoever 
has been deprived of his intellect has also been deprived of knowledge. 4 

His words: 

[16:21] They are dead, not living, and they are not aware... 

Sahl said: 

God, Exalted is He, created all creatures. Then He brought them to life by the name (ism) of 


1 Presumably this indicates that it would take a thousand years to go from one end to the other and the same time to go 
across it. 

2 According to MS F638, f. 30a it is an tuqabilahu inkaran meaning that you should restrain yourself from meeting this 
with denial. 

3 See above the commentary on 3:7 regarding different kinds of knowledge granted by God. 

4 Tustari s teachings concerning knowledge and the role of the intellect are discussed above in IT, pp. xlivff. 


107 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


life . 5 Then He caused them to die by their ignorance of themselves. Those who live through 
knowledge are the living; otherwise they are dead through their ignorance. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[16:36] And verily We sent forth among every community a messenger, [ to say] ‘Worship God. . .’ 
He said: 

Worship ( c ibada ) is the adornment of mystics ( c arifun ). Furthermore, the best that one who is 
knowledgeable can do in the fields of worship [or servanthood, c ubudiyya ] and service ( khidma ) 
is to give up that which is his [right] (ma lahu ) for that which is his duty (ma c alayhi ). 6 
His words: 

[16:53] Whatever grace you have, it is from God. Then when misfortune befalls you, to Him you 
cry for help. 

Sahl said: 

If God put to task the bearers of the Throne, and the angels below them [in rank], along with 
the prophets and messengers, concerning something they had disregarded among the bless- 
ings that He had bestowed upon them, He would punish [even] them for that, for God is not 
unjust. 

Sahl was asked: ‘What does God do with His servant when He loves him?’ He said: 

He inspires him to seek forgiveness for his shortcomings and show gratitude for blessings he 
has received. Truly, they desired with a [wholehearted] intention that they should come to know 
of the blessings that God, Exalted is He, had bestowed on them, that [their state of] gratitude 
might endure, and the increase [resulting from that gratitude] might continue . 7 
[16:53] ...Then when misfortune befalls you, to Him you cry for help. 

That is, to Him alone do you call in times of deprivation ( faqr ) and affliction ( bald J ). [Moreover] 
this may [itself] be a blessing from God upon you, for if He so wished He could have afflicted 
you with something severer than that, so in comparison to a severer affliction, it is a blessing, 
for [under a severer affliction] they would recoil in fear from it, and neither exercise patience 
(sabr) nor show gratitude. 

It came to our knowledge that God, Exalted is He, revealed to David the words: ‘Be patient 
with the provisions (maxima) you have [from Me], and you will be granted help (ma‘una) from 
Me ’. 8 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[16:55] ••■So enjoy, for soon you will know. 

He said: 

This is a promise from God, Exalted is He, to the disbelievers of Mecca that for their denial, in 
spite of the blessings that God had bestowed upon them in this world, they will come to know 
the penalty for that [disbelief] in the Hereafter. This verse is also a severe warning to those who 
are heedless ( ghdfilun ), in accordance with the saying of the Messenger |J: ‘Whoever gratifies 
his insatiable desire ( nahma ) in this world, will, in the Hereafter, be separated from [the object 


5 Here Tustari is alluding to the power of the divine word, as when it is said in 36:82, His command , when He wills a 
thing, is just to say to it ‘Be and it is. There may also be in this comment an indication of the connection between the 
knowledge of things and their names, as is already indicated in 2:31: And He taught Adam the names of things, all of them, 
which commentators have usually understood to mean ‘He was taught the knowledge of things’, and also the connec- 
tion between knowledge and life, as indicated by the next sentence. The power of the divine word is also discussed in 
Tustari s Risalat al-huruf 

6 Compare Tustari s recommendation that we should give up that which is rightfully ours as well as that which is not, in 
his commentary on 9:112. 

7 See the comment on 14:7 above. 

8 Thus patience, which is often associated with gratitude, also brings increase. Again, see above, the commentary on 14:7 
regarding gratitudes increase. 


108 


16 Al-Nahl 


of] his desire. For that which was legitimate, there will be an accounting ( hisdb ), and for that 
which was forbidden, there will be punishment ( c iqab ).’ 9 Indeed, the believers are made to 
account for what they enjoyed legitimately in excess of their needs. Whoever takes of what is 
legitimate [only] that which suffices him, falls under the category mentioned by the Prophet 
when he said, ‘Worldliness is not in the consumption of a piece of dry bread by which a person 
abates his hunger, a garment by which he covers his private parts and carries out what is legally 
binding upon him, or a house which shelters him from the sun and cold in winter .’ 10 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[16:67] A«d of the fruits of date-palms and vines from which you draw wine and goodly provision. 
He [Abu Bakr al-Sijzi] said, ‘This verse was abrogated by the verse on wine ( khamr ). u Ibrahim 12 
and Shu abl also said this.’ Sahl said: 

As far as I am concerned, wine ( sakar ) 13 is anything which intoxicates the lower self (nafs) in 
this world, and for which it [the nafs] does not believe it will be punished in the Hereafter. 
Abu Hamza al-Sufi 14 visited Sahl and he asked him: ‘Where have you been, Abu Hamza?’ He replied, 
‘We were with such and such a person who informed us that intoxication is of four kinds.’ He said, 
‘Tell me what they are.’ [Abu Hamza continued], ‘The intoxication of drink, the intoxication of youth, 
the intoxication of wealth and the intoxication of authority.’ Sahl replied, ‘There are two kinds of 
intoxication which he did not inform you about.’ He asked, ‘What are they?’ and Sahl answered, 
‘The intoxication of the scholar who loves this world, and the intoxication of the worshipper who 
loves to be noticed.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[16:72] ...And made for you out of your mates, children (banun) and grandchildren (hafada)... 
He said: 

The following saying is transmitted from Ibn Mas ud ‘Hafada are the in-laws.’ According 
to Ibn c Abbas 4 *>, children (banun) refers to the children of the children, and grandchildren 
(hafada) refers to those among them who help their father in his work. 

According to Dahhak, hafada are the servants devoted to God in willing compliance ( ijdban ), 
without their asking of anyone except Him. 

His words: 

[16:88] ...We shall add torment upon torment ... 

He said: 

Jabir b. c Abd Allah 4® related that he asked the Prophet M about what this increase [in torment] 
was. The Messenger of God H replied: ‘The increase is in five rivers which come out from beneath 
the Throne and fall upon the heads of those among the people of the Hellfire who reject God 
and His Messenger. Three of them are proportionate to the night in measure, and two of them 
proportionate to the day in measure. They flow with fire forever, as long as they abide there.’ 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[16:90] Indeed, God enjoins justice ( c adl) and benevolence (ihsan) and giving to kinsfolk, {and He 
forbids you indecency (lalisha ), abomination (munkar) and aggression. He admonishes you so 
that you may take heed). 


9 BayhaqI, Shu c ab al-lman, vol. 7, p. 125. 

10 Mundhirl, al-Targhlb, vol. 4, p. 77, (with different wording); TabaranI, al-Mu c jam al-awsat , vol. 9, p. 136. 

11 The verse concerning intoxicating drinks is 2:219. 

12 It is not clear who the person named as Ibrahim is, though the editor of the Dar al-Kutub al- c Ilmiyya edition states that 
this is Ibrahim b. Adham (d. 161/777), f° r which he gives no evidence. 

13 The word sakar, derived from the root s-k-r meaning to become intoxicated, can mean an intoxicant, or by extension, 
wine. 

14 Bowering has identified him as Abu Hamza Muhammad b. Ibrahim al-Bazzaz (d. 289/902), a Sufi of Baghdad. 


109 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

Justice is professing ‘There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’, and 
adhering to the Sunna of His Prophet M m , and benevolence is that you do good to each other; 
and giving to kinsfolk means that whoever God has provided for in abundance should give 
to those among his relatives for whom God has made him responsible; indecency (fahsha 1 ), 
refers to calumny ( kadhb ), backbiting (ghayba ), slander ( buhtan ) and all other offences of the 
tongue; and abomination (munkar), refers to the committing of transgressions in the form of 
actions. He admonishes you, means He instructs you in the finest conduct ( adab ), and draws 
your attention to the highest awareness ( intibdh ), so that you make take heed, that is, receive 
admonishment and refrain [from sins] . 

Sahl [also] said: 

People are asleep and when they die they awaken . 15 
His words: 

[ 16 : 97 ] Whoever acts righteously, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily, We shall 
revive with a good life, a new life... 

He said: 

Life ( haydt ) is in the removal from the servant of his contrivance and management [of things] 

( tadbir ), and his turning back to God’s management of things for him. 

His words: 

[ 16 : 110 ] Then indeed your Lord — towards those who emigrated after they were persecuted, and 
then struggled and were steadfast [ will be most Forgiving and most Merciful ]. 

Sahl said: 

They emigrated means they left behind the evil company [they had been keeping] after it became 
clear to them that associating with them was a source of corruption for them. Then they strug- 
gled to keep themselves in the company of the people of goodness ( khayr ). Subsequently, they 
were steadfast in this and did not go back to the situation they were in at the beginning of events. 
Once a man asked Sahl, ‘I have wealth and strength and I want to perform jihad. What do you 
command me to do?’ Sahl answered: 

Wealth is knowledge (Him), strength is intention (niya) and jihad is the struggle with the lower 
self ( mujahadat al-nafs). No one is assured safety concerning what God has forbidden except 
a prophet or veracious person ( siddiq ). 

Abu TJthman was asked the meaning of his [Sahl’s] saying, ‘Except a prophet or veracious one (siddiq)’. 
He replied, ‘He does not enter into anything whose safety [or benignity] ( c dfiya) is in question. 

His words: 

[ 16 : 119 ] Bat towards those who did wrong out of ignorance, and afterwards, repent and make 
amends, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful. 

Sahl said: 

No one ever disobeyed God, Exalted is He, save through ignorance, yet many an act of igno- 
rance gives rise to knowledge. Knowledge is the key to repentance. Making amends (islah) is 
[a sign of] a sound repentance. Whoever does not make amends as r a part of (fi ) 116 his repent- 
ance, [will find] his repentance is soon ruined, for God, Exalted is He, has said, and afterwards, 
repent and make amends. 


15 The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition notes that a variant of this saying is attributed to Tustari in BayhaqI, 
Kitab al-Zuhd al-kabir, vol. 2, p. 207, while in c Ajluni, Kashf al-khafa\ vol. 2, p. 525, it is attributed to c AlI b. Abi Talib, in 
Munawi, Fayd al-qadlr, vol. 5, p. 56 it is said to be a hadith of the Prophet, and in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 7, p. 52 
it is attributed to Luqman. 

16 Added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 66b, F638, f. 31a; Fatih 3488, f. 239a. 


110 


Sahl was asked about the ignorant person [referred to in the verse]. He said: 

He is the one who takes himself as his guide (imam), and has no virtuous guide ( imam sdlih) 
whom he follows. 

His words: 

[ 16 : 127 ] So be patient: and your patience is only by [the help of] God... 

Sahl said: 

Be patient and know that there is no helper (mu c in) in your affairs except God, Exalted is He. 
r And God, Exalted is He, knows best 1 . 17 



17 The last sentence is present only in MS F638, f. 31a. 


1 7 Al-Isra 3 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[17:8] ...but if you revert, We too revert... 

Sahl said: 

It means, ‘If you revert to transgression, We revert to forgiveness; and if you revert to turning 
your backs on Us, We revert to advancing towards you; and if you revert to fleeing from Us, 
We revert to barring the ways [of escape] for you. Return to Us for the way ( tariq ) is taken 
care of by Us.’ 1 
His words: 

[17:11] And man prays for ill as [avidly] as he prays for good... 

Sahl said: 

The soundest of supplications is the remembrance ( dhikr ) [of God] , and relinquishing the choice 
[that is made] through petitioning and supplication, for remembrance [itself] suffices. For it 
may be that when a person supplicates, he asks for something that will lead to his ruin without 
realising it. Do you not see that God, Exalted is He, says, And man prays for ill as [avidly] as he 
prays for good? The one who remembers [God] constantly, and who abandons choice ( ikhtiyar ), 
supplication (duV) and petitioning (su’dl), will be granted the best that could be desired, and 
the ills of petitioning and choice will fall away from him. For this reason the Messenger of 
God M said, ‘To those whose remembrance of Me kept them from petitioning Me, I will grant 
the best that petitioners ask for.’ 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[17:13] And We have attached every person’s omen to his neck... 

He said: 

[This means] his action [s], 3 that is, of whatever came to be of good or evil. 

His words: 

[17:14] Read your record! This day your own soul suffices as your own reckoner. 

He said: 

The following saying is related from Hasan al-Basrl: ‘Prepare for the questioning with an answer, 
and [be ready] to respond with what is correct. Or else, prepare to have the Fire as your cloak.’ 
‘Umar said: ‘Call yourselves to account before you are called to account. Weigh yourselves up 
before you are weighed up, and prepare for the great [Day of] Exposure before you are exposed.’ 4 


1 lit. the way (tariq) is incumbent upon Us (' alayna ). 

2 Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul , vol. 3, p. 64 and 259; Muhammad b. Salama al-Quda c i, Musnad al-Shihab (Beirut, 1986), vol. 
1, p. 34, vol. 2, p. 326. 

3 All the MSS (Z515, f. 67a, F638, f. 31b and F3488, f. 239b) have c amalahu here instead of Hlmahu. 

4 i.e. the Day of Resurrection, when humanity will be exposed’ or ‘presented’ (the verb c -r-d can have both these mean- 
ings), before God, as for example in 17:83. 


112 


ly Al-Isra 7 


Sahl was asked about the calling to account ( muhasaba ) and the weighing up ( muwazana ). He said: 
The calling to account is of two kinds: the accounting that concerns those matters which are 
between the servant and his Lord, and this is in secret; and the accounting that concerns matters 
that are between him and other people, and that is done openly. The weighing up is when you 
have before you [the possibility of] two obligatory acts, two Sunna acts, or two supererogatory 
acts ( nafl ). After reflecting on which of them will bring you closer to God and is weightier with 
Him, you start with that act . 5 
His words: 

[17:25] Your Lord knows best what is within your souls (nufusikum). . . 

That is, what is in your hearts ( qulub ), because the heart includes the intellect ( c aql ), the self 
( nafs ) and desire ( hawd ). 6 
His words: 

[17:25] ...If you are righteous, then truly He is Forgiving to those who keep turning [to Him] in 
repentance. 

Ibn al-Musayyib said: ‘The one who turns again and again in penitence ( awwab ) is the one who 
sins, then repents, then sins, then repents, and dies in a state of repentance’. Hasan al-Basrl 
said, ‘The awwab is the penitent who repents without delay . 7 Indeed he is ready ( muhayya ’) for 
repentance at every instant and moment.’ It was related on the authority of Damra b. Habib 
that the Prophet H said: ‘He for whom a door to goodness has been opened should seize [the 
opportunity] as he does not know when it will close on him .’ 8 This means that he should seri- 
ously consider his present moment ( waqt ) and not procrastinate. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[17:36] And do not pursue (la taqfu) that of which you have no knowledge. 

That is, ‘Do not desire (la tabghi) that about which you have no knowledge’, just as the Prophet it 
said, ‘We are of the [tribe] of Banu al-Nadlr b. Kinana. We do not try to trace our origins through 
our mother, nor do we deny our father .’ 9 That is, the father of the Arabs. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[17:57] ...and they hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement... 

He said: 

The outer meaning of His mercy is His Paradise, and its inner meaning is the reality of gnosis 
( haqiqat al-ma c rifa). 10 
Then he said: 

Truly, fear and hope are two restraining ties ( zamaman ) 11 for mankind. If they have equal [sway] , 
a person’s condition [lit. states ahwdl ] will be stabilised, but if one of them preponderates, the 

5 It appears that in this passage, Tustari is applying these two terms differently: the calling to account ( muhasaba ) here 
appears to refer to that to which the slave will be subjected in the Hereafter, whereas the weighing up ( muwazana ) is 
referring to something to be done in this world. However, Tustari clearly recommends an accounting ( muhasaba ) for 
this world, since he cited the saying of c Umar. 

6 For a discussion of Tustari s understanding of the inner constitution of the human being, again see IT, pp. xxxviiiff. 
However, in this sentence it is possible that Tustari is using the word ‘hearts’ (qulub) more generally to refer to man’s 
inner world or soul. 

7 lit. ‘He doesn’t have two moments for this’, i.e. he does not imagine he has two opportunities for it. 

8 Quda c i, Musnad al-Shihab, vol. 1, p. 268. 

9 lit. ‘We do not ask about our mother’. The hadith is listed in Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 5, pp. 211-2; Tabarani, al-Mu c jam 
al-kabir, vol. 1, p. 235 and vol. 2, p. 286; and Ibn Maja, Sunan , vol. 2, p. 871. 

10 Substituted for haqiqat al-ma^ruf, on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 68a, F638, f. 31b and F3488, f. 240a. Tustari’s 
comment is in accordance with the Sufi teaching that true mystics do not have any hope or desire for the delights of 
Paradise; their only desire is to attain the unmediated experiential knowledge or beholding of God, otherwise expressed 
as union with God. 

11 Substituting the dual for the singular, on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 68a, F638, f. 31b and F3488, f. 240a. 


113 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


other will be cancelled out. Notice how the Prophet H said: ‘If a believer’s hope and fear were 
weighed they would balance each other.’ 12 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[17:67] And when distress befalls you at sea, those whom you are wont to invoke are no longer 
present, except Him.. . 

That is, those other than Him from whom you ask relief. Then [eventually] you give up all 
dependency on your own power ( hawl ) and strength ( quwwa ) and recognise His power and 
His strength. This verse is a refutation of the Qadaris, who claim to have ability for themselves 
without [the need for] God, Exalted is He. 13 God, Exalted is He, has said, Do you feel secure that 
He will not cause a slope of land to engulf you, or unleash upon you a storm of pebbles? [17:68] 
And He said, or unleash upon you a shattering gale to drown you [17:69]. So, if they really have 
ability ( istitcLa ), let them repel the punishment from themselves. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[17:72] And whoever has been blind in this [world] will be blind in the Hereafter... 

That is, whoever is blind of heart in this world such that he does not show gratitude for the bless- 
ings, both outward and inward, that God, Exalted is He, has bestowed upon him, will be blind 
in the Hereafter such that he is prevented from seeing the Bestower of blessings ( al-Mun c im ). 
His words: 

[17:80] And say, ‘My Lord make me enter with veracity ...’ 14 

That is, ‘Make me enter, by virtue of my conveying the Message ( risdla ), by an entrance of 
veracity. This signifies that I will not incline to anyone, and that I will not fall short in observing 
the limits and conditions in conveying it. Also grant me a safe exit [from this world], seeking 
Your good pleasure in [upholding] it with conformity ( muwdfaqa ) [to Your will]. And grant 
me from Yourself a supporting authority (sultanan nasiran).’That is, ‘Adorn me with the adorn- 
ment of Your dominion ( jabarut ), so that the authority of truth prevails over them and not 
the authority of desire.’ 

And on another occasion I heard Sahl say: 

...And grant me from Yourself a supporting authority [refers to having] a tongue which speaks 
on the authority of ( ‘an ) You and no one else. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[17:107] ...Those who were given knowledge before it, when it is recited to them, fall down on their 
faces in humble prostration. 

Sahl said: 

There is nothing which affects [man’s] innermost secret ( sirr ) like listening to the QuYan. This 
is due to the fact that when the servant listens, his innermost secret is humbled in submission 
( khasha‘a ), and his heart is illuminated by this with truthful proofs ( bardhin sddiqa). Further- 
more his bodily members are adorned with self-abasement (tadhallul) and obedient submission 
( inqiyad ). But God knows best. 



12 Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musannaf, vol. 7, p. 178; Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 2, p. 12. See above Tustaris commentary on 
11:75 and p. 93, n. 13 on the need to retain both fear and hope and keep them in balance. 

13 The term Qadaris or Qadirites ( Qadiriyya ) was commonly applied to a group of theologians in early Islam who were 
advocates of free will. The term qadar means power’ and therefore conversely, the term was also occasionally applied 
to those who held the opposite view and maintained the divine omnipotence, insisting that God was the Creator of all 
human acts. Tustari is clearly applying the term in its former designation. 

14 Verses 72-80 are directly addressed to the Prophet. 


114 


18 Al-Kahf' 


His words: 

[18:7] ...that We may try them, as to which of them is best in conduct . 1 2 
He said: 

That is, as to which of them is best in their relinquishing of this world and all that leads to 
distraction ( ishtighal ) from God, Exalted is He, and in their humbling themselves ( ikhbdt ) 
before Us, their tranquil reliance ( sukun ) on Us, their complete trust ( tawakkul ) in Us, and 
their advancing ( iqbdl ) towards Us. 

He was asked about His word: 

[18:9 ]. ..the inscription (al-raqlm)... 

He said: 

Al-Raqim is their leader who is called ‘the dog’ but they do not actually have a dog. 3 God, Exalted 
is He, said Their dog [lay] stretching his two forelegs on the threshold [18:18]. That is, stretching 
his two forelegs in command and prohibition. Tkrima said, 'al-raqim is the word for inkwell in 
the Byzantine tongue.’ Hasan said, 'al-Raqim is the valley in which the Cave is situated’, while 
Ka c b 4 said, 'al-raqim is a lead tablet on which is inscribed their names, their genealogies, their 
religion and from whom they fled.’ 5 Al-wasid, however, is the threshold. 


1 Surat al-Kahf takes its title from the story of the ‘Companions of the Cave’ ( ashab al-kahf), which is narrated from 
18:9-26. The story, which is terse, almost cryptic in its telling, is referred to in 18:9 as a marvel from among Our signs , 
and is therefore to be reflected on. It tells how a group of believing young men take refuge in a cave. There they pray for 
Gods mercy and to be granted [guidance to] the correct course of conduct ( rashad ) from Him in their affair or situation 
[18:10]. God makes them sleep in the cave for a number of years [18:11], then rouses them, and strengthens their hearts 
so that they can attest to the oneness of God, and denounce the calling upon other gods besides Him [18:14]. It becomes 
clear that the Companions of the Cave have isolated themselves from their people, who have become polytheists [18:15] . 
We are told of the dog, as it were standing guard at the entrance of the cave [18:18]. One of the young men is eventually 
sent to the city by the others to procure the purest food and bring them a supply of it, but is warned that he should do 
it in such a way that no one is made aware of him [18:19]. The reason for this caution is then given: For indeed if they 
should come to know of you, they will [either] stone you, or make you return to their creed, and then you will never prosper 
[18:20]. The story of the cave has been a subject of particular interest in Sufi exegesis, since the Companions of the Cave 
are seen as prototypes of the spiritual wayfarer, both in their retreat from worldliness and in their dependence upon 
Gods guidance. 

2 The verse in full reads: Truly We have made all that is in the earth as an adornment for it, that We may try them as to 
which of them is best in conduct. 

3 Interestingly, Tustarl follows this statement with a citation of 18:18, and he does later speak of the dog of the Companions 
of the Cave in his commentary on 31:15. Perhaps his meaning is that they did not own a dog. According to ThaTabI, the 
dog belonged to a shepherd who joined the Companions of the Cave and led them to the cave on the mountain where 
they hid. To begin with, the young men drove the dog away, being afraid that its bark would reveal their whereabouts, 
but then the dog got up and spoke to them, and made the attestation of divine oneness and they let him alone. ThaTabI 
includes a number of views about the dogs appearance and its name. See ThaTabI, c AraTs al-majalis, pp. 452-3; trans. 
Brinner, pp. 695-6. 

4 Ka c b al-Ahbar. 

5 These interpretations of ‘al-Raqim are among those which Tabari presents in his commentary on 18:9 in his Jami c al- 
bayan. Other opinions are that it was the name of a village ( qarya ) or the name of the mountain ( jabal ) on which the 
cave was situated. He does not include the view that al-Raqim is the name of the dog. In his long commentary on 18:9, 


115 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 10 ] ...‘Give us mercy from Yourself...’ 

That is, ‘Keep us in the state of Your remembrance ( dhikr ).’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 13 ] • • ■ They were indeed young men who believed in their Lord. . . 

Sahl said: 

He called them young men (fitya ) because they believed in Him without [the aid] of any 
intermediary ( wdsita ), and they devoted themselves to Him by ridding themselves of all other 
attachments ( c ala’iq ). * 6 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 13 ] ■■■And We increased them in guidance. 

That is, in insight ( basira ) concerning faith. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 17 ] ■■ .whomsoever He leads astray, you will not find for him a guiding friend. 

If God wishes to manifest His [prior] knowledge of a persons ill-fortune ( shaqdwa ) by lifting 
His protection ( c isma ) from them, you will not find for that person anyone who can protect 
them from that. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 18 ] ...If you had observed them you would have turned away from them inflight, and would 
have been filled with awe... 

This means: ‘If you had observed them through your self, you would have run away from them 
in fear, but if you had observed them through God, you would have come to know ( waqafta ) 
in them the realities of unicity ( haqalq al-wahdaniyya ) from Him.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 21 ] . . . Those who prevailed regarding their affair said. . . 

He said: 

Its outward meaning is a reference to authority [and the power of those who held sway] ( wildya ), 
and its inner meaning refers to the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh), the understanding of the intel- 
lect ( fahm al- c aql) and discernment of the heart ( fitnat al-qalb) [which hold sway] through the 
remembrance of God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 28 ] ...And do not obey him whose heart We have made oblivious to Our remembrance... 

He said: 

Heedlessness (ghafla ) is wasting time with futile things ( bitala ). 7 
And he further said: 

The heart has a thousand deaths, of which the ultimate is being cut off ( qatTa ) from God, 
Mighty and Majestic is He; and the heart has a thousand lives, of which the ultimate is the 
encounter ( liqdf with God, Mighty and Majestic is He. Furthermore, with each sinful act the 
heart undergoes a death, and with each act of obedience it receives [new] life. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 18 : 30 ] ...Indeed, We do not let the reward of those of good deeds go to waste. 


Tabari does, however, include the view that there was a dog which lay at the entrance to the cave. 

6 On the word fitya see also Tustari’s commentary on the wordfatayan (12:36) and p. 96, n. 10. 

7 According to Lane, bitala can mean ‘being diverted from that which would bring profit in this world or in the life to 
come’. Thus we have translated it as ‘wasting time with futile things’. 


116 


18 Al-Kahf 


He said: 

Goodness of conduct ( husn al-amal ) 8 is maintaining rectitude ( istiqdma ) [in one’s conduct] 
by [adhering to] the Sunna. The similitude of the Sunna in this world is that of the Garden 
in the Hereafter. Whoever enters the Garden is safe. Likewise whoever adheres to the Sunna 
in this world is preserved from all ills. Malik b. Anas 4 ® said, ‘If a man had committed all the 
enormities (kabd.Hr), but then harboured no desire for any of them nor any innovation, 9 1 
would be hopeful for him.’ Then he said, ‘Let whoever dies following the Sunna be of good 
cheer’, three times over. 

Sahl said: 

The veils will not be lifted from the servant until he buries his lower self in the earth. 

He was asked, ‘How does he bury his lower self?’ He replied: 

He slays it through the Sunna, and also buries it by adhering to the Sunna. This is because every 
station of the worshippers, such as fear, hope, love, longing, abstinence, contentment and trust, 
has a limit (ghdya ) except for the Sunna, for it has no limit or end. 

Matta b. Ahmad was asked about the meaning of the words: ‘The Sunna has no limit.’ He said, ‘No one 
has fear like the fear of the Prophet :ft, and [the same goes for] his love ( hubb ), his longing ( shawq ), 
his abstinence ( zuhd ), his contentment ( rida ), his trust ( tawakkul ), and his [noble] characteristics 
( akhlaq ). Indeed, God, Exalted is He, has said: Assuredly you possess a magnificent nature [68:4].’ 
He [Sahl] was asked about the meaning of the words of the Prophet H, ‘Make yourselves hungry 
and denude yourselves.’ 10 He replied: 

Make yourselves hungry for knowledge and denude yourselves of ignorance. 

His words: 

[18:39] ■■■What God has willed . 11 There is no power except in God... 

That is, whatever God has willed in His prior knowledge, with which no one is acquainted 
except God, Exalted is He. There is no power except with God means, ‘We have no power 
( quwwa ) to perform what You commanded us in principle (ft’l-asl ), nor do we have success 
in its practical application (far 1 ) , nor [can we be sure of having] a praiseworthy end, except 
with Your aid ( ma c una ). 12 This is also a commentary on the words of the Prophet, ‘There is 
neither power nor strength except in God’, 13 — that is: ‘There is no means of security against 
ignorance concerning the principle, or against persistence [in transgression] resulting from 
that [ignorance], save through Your protection. Likewise, we have no power to perform what 
You have commanded us in principle (asl), nor security in putting that into practice (fi’l-farf , 
nor of a praiseworthy end except through Your aid’. 


8 Husn also has the meaning of beauty, because what is good is fair and beautiful. 

9 By not having any innovation, he would be conforming to the Sunna. 

10 This saying appears in an extended form in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 2, p. 370, attributed to Jesus who says, 
‘Make yourselves hungry, and thirsty, denude yourselves and wear yourselves out, that your hearts may come to know 
God.’ 

11 Ma sha'a’Llah, which according to Islamic tradition, should be said when encountering or remarking on beauty or virtue, 
especially in a person, child or personal possession. The beginning of this verse makes it clear that these words should 
have been uttered on entering the garden. This verse is part of the story of two men, one of whom possesses two gardens 
which have abundant yield and are watered by a gushing stream. The latter boasts to the other that he has greater wealth 
and is stronger with respect to men. Then that same man looks at his garden, and expresses the view that it will never 
perish, and that the Hour will never come, and that even if it does, he will surely find an even better resort than this garden. 
In response, his companion reminds him of his lowly origin and that God has fashioned him, and he then expresses the 
admonition of the above verse, continuing by warning the man that God might grant him (the speaker) a better garden, 
or unleash on his companions garden [thunder] bolts, so that it becomes a barren plain. 

12 The words asl and far c here are probably allusions to the two aspects of the sacred law: its principles: ( usul ) and its 
practical applications (furu c ), lit. branches. 

13 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Tahajjud’. 


117 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Sahl was asked, ‘What is the best thing that a servant can be given?’ He said: 

Knowledge by which he increases in his sense of utter neediness ( iftiqdr ) for God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He. 

His words: 

[18:55] What has prevented people from believing, when the guidance has come to them? 

He said: 

Guidance ( huda ) came to them but the ways of guidance ( turuq al-hidaya) had been blocked 
( masdud ) for them, for guidance (huda) and faith ( iman ) were barred from them by the pre- 
eternal decree ( hukm ) over them. 

His words: 

[18:109] Say, ‘If the ocean were ink for [ writing] the words of my Lord, it would run dry. . .’ 

That is, in recording the knowledge of my Lord and His wonders. 

Then he said: 

His Book is part of His knowledge, and if a servant was given a thousand ways of understand- 
ing each letter of the Qur'an, he would not reach the end of God’s knowledge within it. This 
is because it is His pre-eternal speech, and His speech is one of His attributes, and there is no 
end to any of His attributes just as He has no end. All that can be comprehended of His speech 
is as much as He opens to the hearts of His friends. 

His words: 

[18:110] So whoever hopes to encounter his Lord, let him do virtuous work and not associate any- 
one with the worship of his Lord. 

He said: 

A virtuous act is that which is free of ostentation ( riydf , and bound ( muqayyad ) by the Sunna. 
But God, Transcendent and Exalted is He, knows best. 



118 


19 Maryam 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[19:13] and compassion from Us... 1 

That is, ‘We did this out of mercy for his [Johns] parents’, and purity. . . 

‘We purified him of the false opinions ( zunun ) that people hold with regard to Him .’ 2 And he 
was God-fearing, that is, ‘He advanced towards Us, shunning all other than Us.’ 

He also said: 

The states ( ahwdl ) of the prophets are all pure ( mahda ). 3 4 
His words: 

[19:31] And He has made me blessed wherever I may be...* 

That is, I [Jesus] command what is right, forbid what is wrong, guide aright those who are astray, 
support the oppressed, and give relief to the anxious. 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[19:32] ...He did not make me arrogant and wretched. 

That is, ignorant of His commandments, and disdainful of His worship out of pride. The 
Prophet M said, ‘Pride ( kibriya 2 ) is the cloak of God, and whoever contests with God over it, 
He will cast face-first into the Fire. . .’ 5 
He was asked about His words. Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[19:26] ...I have vowed to the Compassionate One abstinence (sawm)... 

He said: 

‘I have abstained from all [speech] save Your remembrance, [as] when the person observing 
abstinence asks for comfort in You, and his heart finds repose in You, and no one else. ...so I 
will not talk to any human today! 


1 The first part of Surat Maryam (w. 2-11) relates the story of Zachariah praying to God for an heir, since his wife is barren, 
and Gods reassuring Zachariah that this would be easy for Him. Zachariah is told that the sign of the accomplishment 
of this would be that he would be unable to speak for three days and nights. Verse 12 then speaks of the young boy John 
being commanded by God to hold firmly to the scripture, and in the same verse, we are informed that while still a boy 
he was granted wisdom. Verse 13, with which Tustari commences his commentary, relates that John was also granted 
compassion ( hanan ) from God, that is to say, he was given to be compassionate in nature (19:13), as well as pure, and 
that he was God-fearing. 

2 In that, according to the commentaries, he was an upholder of the divine oneness ( tawhid ). 

3 That is, according to MSS F638, f. 32b and F3488, f. 242b and the printed edition, with the verb m-h-d being taken in 
its meaning of ‘to be pure, unalloyed, untainted’. MS Z515, f. 70b, however, has muhassana meaning guarded, protected. 
Either would be possible in this context. 

4 These are words spoken by Jesus while still in the cradle. Thus he, like John, was endowed with the miracle of speaking 
as an infant. 

5 Ibn Maja, Sunan, ‘Bab al-bara 3 a min al-kibr’; Abu Dawud, Sunan , ‘Bab ma ja 3 a fi’l-kibr’; Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 2, 
pp. 248, 376, 414, 427 and 442. 


119 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words: 

[19:52] ...And brought him near in communion . 6 

That is, being secretly called for the unveiling ( mukashafa ) from God, [an unveiling] which is 
not concealed from hearts, in [intimate] conversation ( muhadatha ) and loving affection ( wudd ), 
just as He said, Exalted is He, Truly those who believe and perform righteous deeds — for them 
the Compassionate One shall appoint loving affection (wudd) [19:96], meaning that [through] 
this unveiling, the mysteries ( asrdr ) are received without any mediation ( wdsita ). This is a sta- 
tion given by God to those who are true and faithful ( sadaqu ) to Him both in secret and openly. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[19:61] Gardens of Eden, which the Compassionate One has promised to His servants in the un- 
seen... 

This means the ‘visual’ beholding ( mu c ayana ) of God, in the sense of nearness which He 
appointed between Him and them, so that the servant sees his heart in the proximity of God, 
witnessed ( mashhud ) in the unseen of the unseen (ghayb al-ghayb ). The unseen of the unseen 
is the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh), the understanding of the intellect (fahm al- c aql), and the dis- 
cernment of meaning by the heart (fitnat al-murad bi’l-qalb ). 7 The spiritual self is the seat of 
the intellect faql), which is the seat of the Holy ( al-Quds ). This Holy is linked with the Throne 
(' : arsh ), and is one of the names of the Throne. God, Exalted is He, apportioned for the self one 
part in a thousand parts [i.e. one thousandth] of the spirit (ruh) — or rather, even less than that. 
When the will ( irada ) of the spirit becomes the will of the self (nafs) [as in the spiritual self], 
they are given between them discernment (fitna ) and intuition ( dhihn ). Discernment is the 
guide (imam) of understanding (fahm), s and understanding is the guide of intuition (dhihn). 
Discernment (fitna) is life (hayat) and understanding (fahm ) is livelihood ( c aysh). 

There are but two [kinds of] men who understand the Word [of God]: the first wants to 
understand so he can speak about it from a position [of authority] and his lot is nothing but 
that; the other hears it and is occupied with acting upon it to the exclusion of all else. This 
person is rarer than red sulphur (al-kibrit al-ahmar) and more precious than all that is dear. 
He is among those who love one another for God’s sake (al-mutahdbbun fi’Llldh ). 9 Trying to 
understand (tafahhum) is an exertion of effort (takalluf), yet discernment (fitna ) 10 cannot be 
attained through effort, but rather by acting in sincerity (al- c amal bi’l-ikhlds) for Him. Truly God, 
Exalted is He, has servants in Paradise who, if they were veiled from the encounter (liqd 7 ) [with 
their Lord] for a blinking of the eye, would cry out for help against it, just as the inhabitants 
of the Hellfire plead for help against the Hellfire. This is because they have come to know Him 
farafuhu). See how God’s Interlocutor [Moses] 11 could not wait to see Him on account of 


6 Verses 51-53 allude briefly to the story of Moses’ communing with God (i.e. his hearing Him speak), both from the 
burning bush and at Mount Sinai. The former incident is narrated more fully in 20:10-6, 27:7-9 and 28:29-30, while 
the theophany at Mount Sinai is recounted in 7:142-6. 

7 A similar configuration of the spiritual psychology of the mystic is given in the commentary on 18:21 with the differ- 
ence that the earlier passage has ‘discernment of the heart’ (fitnat al-qalb) instead of ‘discernment of what is intended 
or meant by the heart’ ( fitnat al-murad bi’l-qalb). On Tustarl’s different discussions of the inner make-up or spiritual 
psychology of the human being, again see IT, pp. xxxviiiff. 

8 Translating al-fitna imam al-fahm according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 71a, F638, f. 33a and F3488, f. 243a, not dhihn as 
in the published edition. 

9 This is probably an allusion to a hadith narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayra or Abu SaTd al-Khudri in which the 
Prophet includes ‘those who love each other for the sake of their Lord’ among seven who will be given God’s shelter 
on the Day of Judgement. Another similar hadith mentions those who love each other for the sake of God’s greatness. 
They are listed in Ibn Malik, al-Muwatta? , trans., Muhammad Rahimuddin (Damascus, 2003), ch. 522, ‘On those who 
keep friendship for the sake of Allah’. 

10 That is, according to the published edition and MSS F638, f. 33a. However, both MSS Z515, f. 71a and F3488, f. 243b ap- 
pear to have al-ghibta meaning a state of happiness or well-being. 

11 As stated above, the ‘Interlocutor’ [of God] (Kalim Allah ) is the honorary title given to Moses on account of his convers- 
ing with God directly, and on the basis the words kallama’Llahu Musa takliman, ‘God spoke to Moses directly’ [4:164]. 


120 


19 Maryam 


the sweetness he had experienced in communion with Him, so that he said, ‘O my Lord what 
is that Hebrew voice 12 from You which has seized my heart so! Indeed, I have heard the voice 
of the caring mother, and the sound of birds in flight, but I have never heard a sound more 
alluring to my heart than that voice.’ Henceforth, whenever Moses saw a mountain he would 
rush towards it and climb it, yearning [to hear] His speech, glorified be His majesty. There was 
a man from among the Children of Israel who would walk in the footsteps of Moses wherever 
he went, and would sit wherever he sat, until Moses 8S0 became annoyed with him. Someone 
said to him, ‘You have offended the prophet of God.’ He replied, ‘All I desire is to look at the 
mouth which spoke to God.’ 

Then he [Moses] said, My Lord! Show me [Yourself], that I may behold You! [7:143], and God 
replied, ‘O Moses! No creature will see me on earth without dying.’ 13 So he said, ‘O Lord! Let 
me behold You and die, for that is preferable to me than not seeing You and remaining alive.’ 
Thus, whoever gives his heart solely to God and longs for Him, will reach Him. 

Abu c Ubayd Allah al-Khawwas used to shout in Baghdad: ‘Your remembrance ( dhikr ) has 
given me a hunger that I cannot satisfy. Your remembrance has given me a thirst that I can- 
not quench. Oh, how I long for the One who sees me, but whom I see not!’ Then he came to 
the Tigris river and threw himself in the river with his clothes on, plunging into the water at 
one place and emerging in another, shouting all the while: ‘Your remembrance has given me 
a hunger that I cannot satisfy. Your remembrance has given me a thirst that I cannot quench. 
Oh, how I long for the One who sees me but, but whom I see not!’ Meanwhile, all the people 
on the banks of the river wept. 

One day a man came to Sahl while people were gathered around him and said, ‘O Abu Muhammad! 
Look what He has done with you and how He has elevated you!’ 14 However, this did not affect Sahl 
and he said, ‘It is He who is sought. He who is sought!’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[19:76] And God increases in guidance those who found [right] guidance... 

He said: 

This means that God will increase the insight ( baslra ) of those who are guided due to their 
faith in Him and their emulation (iqtidd’) of Muhammad M, and this is an increase in guidance 
( huda ) and clear light ( nur mubin). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[19:85] [Mention] the day on which We shall gather those who are mindful of God to the Compas- 
sionate One, [honoured] on mounts (wafdan). 

That is, mounted ( rukbdnan ). The mindful of God ( muttaqun ) are those who are wary of all 
besides God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 

And he said: 

Nothing will be complete for the servant until he fortifies 15 his work[s] ( c amal ) with fear [of God] 

( khashiya ), his deed[s] (fid) with scrupulous piety ( ward) , his scrupulous piety with sincerity 


12 Sic in all MSS, whereas the printed edition has c ayrani, which may well be a misprint. 

13 This was the reason given by God for His refusal to allow Moses to see Him in Exodus, 34:18-20. This traditional explana- 
tion was probably derived from among the ‘Isra'iliyyat’, that is, traditions concerning the stories of the Biblical prophets 
that were derived either from Jewish converts to Islam or early Muslims who had contact with the Jews and Christians 
of the Arabian peninsula. For this and other definitions of the TsraTliyyat’ see El 2 , vol. iv, pp. 211-2. The Qur'an does 
not give any reason for Gods denying Moses the vision of Him, though the tremendous and devastating effect of the 
divine theophany is demonstrated to Moses through the mountain, which is ‘levelled to the ground’, when God reveals 
Himself to it [7:143]. 

14 That is, substituting aysh yarfcfu laka as in MSS Z515, f. 71b and F3488, f. 244b, for aysh yaqa c u laka in the published 
edition. MS F638, f. 33a is faded and not entirely clear, but appears to read rafa c a laka. 

15 MSS Z515, f. 72a and F3488, f. 243b appear to have yahsula here, while MS F638, f. 33b has yuhassila, either of which 
might be translated as ‘achieves’. However, we have translated yuhassina as in the printed edition. 


121 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


( ikhlas ), his sincerity with contemplative witnessing ( mushahada ), and his contemplative 
witnessing with wariness ( taqwd ) of all besides God. 

And he said: 

Their hearts are too precious to them than that they should see within them anything other than 
God, Mighty and Majestic is He. Indeed, when God created the heart He said, ‘I have created 
you especially for Me.’ Thus, these hearts are wanderers ( jawwala ); they either circumambulate 
the Throne, or they wander [aimlessly] in the dry fodder ( hashsh ) [of the desert wilderness.] 16 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[r9:83] Have you not seen that We unleash the devils against the disbelievers to urge them on 
impetuously ? 

He said: 

They arouse them, stirring them up to acts of disobedience ( ma c dsi ) and they call them to those 
transgressions by means of that which their lower self desires, due to the abandonment of 
God’s protection, 17 just as God, Exalted is He, has said in the story of the Accursed One [Satan] 
( al-Ldin ): I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call [14:22]. His 
calling is at different levels. It may be to what is evil or it may be to what is good, just as the 
Prophet M said, ‘Truly Satan will show one of you seventy doors to goodness just in order to 
make him enter one door to evil and thereby ruin him.’ 

He [Sahl] continued: 

Indeed, the Accursed One whispers to all those who perform acts of worship ( ahl al-ibadat) 
and strive [for the good] ( ashdb al-jahd), but he has no concern for them; his concern is rather 
for the one who does not enter into anything without knowing whether it is [spiritually] to his 
benefit or detriment. 18 It is only with regard to knowledge 19 that worshippers and renunciants 
( zuhhad ) fall into errors, not because of their striving, for [regarding the latter] they do not 
possess a state in which they might discern [errors] in their relationship with God. When 
God, Exalted is He, calls a servant to account on the Day of Resurrection, his intellect will 
remain firm with regard to every action that was done with the knowledge of whether he was 
in a state of obedience or transgression. However, he will fall into confusion ( tahayyur ) and 
bewilderment ( dahsha ) on account of whatever he did in a state of ignorance (jahl ). This is 
because, when he knows what state ( hal ) he is in, his obedience and repentance ( tawba ) will 
be acceptable through God’s proof ( hujja ). 20 However, if he does not know [his state] he will 
fall into confusion and bewilderment, because he acted without anything that could act as 
proof [for him before God]. 21 

Sahl was asked concerning the man who is in a state of remembering God, and the thought ( khatar ) 
‘God is with you’ occurs to his heart. He said: 


16 According to Lane, the word hashsh meant a garden or more specifically, a garden of palm trees, though it also came to 
mean a privy, because it was the place in the garden where people relieved themselves. If we simply assume the word 
hashsh to mean a garden or a remote, forgotten part of the garden, then perhaps Tustaris meaning is that hearts are 
made for God, and they either reach their potential station and roam about the Throne, or they remain at a lower level 
roaming in the garden (the neglected corner of the garden) of this world. 

17 According to Tustari s earlier comments, we would assume this to be Gods removing His protection from them, rather 
than their abandonment of His protection. 

18 lit. whether it is for or against him, i.e. will weigh for or against him in the Hereafter. Satan is therefore more concerned 
to tempt those who have awareness of their state, than with those who are worshipping without consciousness of their 
state. This is explained in the continuation of Tustaris commentary on this verse. 

19 That is, their deficiency in knowledge. 

20 That is, will be found to be true or sound according to the proof (hujja) that God requires. 

21 In this passage Tustari is showing that what is desirable is the knowledge of whether one is obeying or disobeying God, 
and he is connecting this to knowledge of ones state, which he elsewhere defines as a persons knowing whether each 
act that he does is for God or not. See above, Tustaris commentary on 9:122. 


122 


19 Maryam 


It [the thought] is one of three things: it is either an enemy who wishes to cut him off [from 
God], or his lower self wanting to betray him, or his lower self trying to deceive him. In this 
case, he should not pay any attention to such thoughts ( khawatir ). 22 



22 On khatar see above Tustari’s commentary on 2:30, 2:269, and p. 16, n. 24. 


123 


20 Ta Ha 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:7] ...He knows [that which you keep] secret and that which is yet more hidden (akhfa). 

He said: 

That which is yet more hidden than a secret is something which the servant does not [consciously] 
think about, but thinks about in his sleep [unconsciously]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:18] ...I also have other uses for it. 1 

The first one to own the staff was Adam. It came from a myrtle tree in Paradise. Then it was 
passed down from prophet to prophet until it came to Shu c ayb. Subsequently, when [SfnTayb] 
gave Moses his daughter in marriage, he presented the staff to him. Moses SS® used to lean on 
it, drive his sheep with it, scatter leaves for his sheep with it; then he would take from the tree 
whatever he wanted with it, and he would send it after lions, wild beasts and the vermin of 
the earth and it would strike them. If the heat became intense, he would stick it in the ground 
upright and it would provide shade. When he slept, it would guard over him until he awoke, 
and if the night was pitch dark, it would light up for him like a torch. When it was a cloudy 
day and he could not tell the time for prayer, it would give off rays from one of its sides. If he 
became hungry he would plant it in the earth and it would bear fruit immediately. These were 
the uses of his staff. 2 

Moses mentioned the benefits and uses of the staff that had appeared to him, but God, 
Exalted is He, intended [to draw his attention to] uses and benefits [of the staff] that were, as 
yet, hidden from him, such as its turning into a snake, or [Moses’] striking the rock with it 
so that the springs gushed forth from it, or his striking the sea with it, and other such uses. It 
was through this that He showed him that the knowledge of people, even when they are sup- 
ported by prophecy ( nubuwwa ), is deficient when compared to God’s knowledge regarding 
the universe of created things. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:39] ■■■! cast upon you love from Me... 3 
He said: 

God made apparent his bequest of knowledge to him [Moses] before any works [were 
done]. 4 He bequeathed for him love ( mahabba ) in the hearts of His servants. 5 Thus, there 


1 Referring to the staff of Moses, about which God has just inquired. 

2 In his ‘ AraHs al-majalis, Tha c labi has devoted a chapter to traditions describing the many uses and miraculous powers 
of Moses’ staff. See Thalabi, pp. 190-1; trans. Brinner, pp. 294-6. 

3 The context of these words is when Moses’ mother is commanded by God to place him into an ark’ and cast him into 
the river. Thus the love cast by God upon Moses was when he was still an infant. But interestingly, in his interpretation 
Tustari refers to the bequest of knowledge before he speaks of the bequest of love, as will be seen in the commentary 
that follows. 

4 By Moses, or even required of him. 

5 Sufis teach that God rewards his prophets and saints by causing people to love them. However, possibly what is meant 


124 


20 Ta Ha 


are hearts that are rewarded before any action and punished before they have even con- 
sidered [such an action] (qabl al-raf), just as a person may experience joy within his soul 
without knowing the reason for it, or experience sadness without knowing the reason for it. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:40] ...And We tried you with various ordeals ... 6 

That is, ‘As trials for your natural self ( li-nafsika al-tabfiyya), 7 and explained them [the tests] 
to you ( bayannaha ) r so that 1 you should never feel secure from Gods ruse’. 8 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:41] And I chose you for Myself. 

That is, ‘Devote yourself solely (tafarrad) to Me through the stripping away (tajrid) [of all other], 
[so that] nothing diverts you from Me.’ 9 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:42] ...And do not flag in remembrance of Me 10 

That is, ‘Do not keep abundant remembrance on [your] tongue, whilst being negligent concern- 
ingvigilance ( murdqaba ) in [your] heart.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:44] And speak to him gentle words... 

He said: 

It was related from Ibn "Abbas that he said, ‘Moses Sts®, when he visited Pharaoh, would say 
to him, ‘O Abu Mus c ab say: “There is no god except God and I am the Messenger of God”.’ 11 
Sahl said: 

Truly God, Exalted is He, invested Moses sKSl with the robe of those who possess refined 
manners ( muta’addibun ), 12 and He removed from him the hastiness of those who impulsively 
rush in (mutahajjimun), n due to the bounty (fadl) and empowerment ( tamkin ) that he found 
[from God]. 14 


here is simply that Pharaohs wife was moved with love for him, rescued him from the river and adopted him. 

6 In verses 20:38-40 God is recounting to Moses episodes in his past life. The nature of the ordeals mentioned are not 
specified in the Qur'an, although it is evident from the context that they occurred after his slaying of an Egyptian and 
his being hired by Shu c ayb: . . . Then you slew a soul, whereupon We delivered you from [great] distress, and We tried you 
with various ordeals. Then you stayed for several years, among the people ofMidian. Then you came [hither] as ordained. 
O Moses! 

7 The printed edition has fitanan li-nafsika al-taWiyya, and this differs from all three MSS (Z515, f. 73a, F638, f. 34a and 
F3488, f. 245b), which read :fatanna li-nafsik al-tabf i wa bayyannaha hatta. . . , with the variant \fatannd nafsaka al-tabVi. 
The latter simply takes nafs as a direct object of fatanna. Tustari seems to use the terms nafs al-tab c and nafs tabiHyya 
interchangeably (see the commentary on 12:24). The masculine form of the adjective following the feminine noun {nafs), 
which appears here in the MSS, and in other contexts, in the printed edition, is puzzling. We have followed the printed 
edition in this case, since bayyannaha appears to refer back to the trials (fitan). 

8 On the divine ruse, see above Tustari’s commentary on 2:41 and p. 20, n. 47. See also 3:8 and p. 42, n.10. 

9 In Sufism, the technical term tajrid, lit. stripping away’, means the purification of the self from all other than God. It 
is usually paired with the term tafrid, lit. ‘making single’, which is to isolate the self for and in God. In this comment 
Tustari has used the fifth form verbal noun from the root f-r-d ( tafarrud ), instead of the second form (tafrid). On these 
two terms see, for example, Kalabadhi, Kitab al-Ta c arruf, ch. 52, and Ansari, Manazil al-sahrin, chs. 97 and 98. 

10 Both Moses and Aaron are being addressed here. 

11 According to Tabari’s history, the name of the Pharaoh of Moses’ day was Qabus b. Mus c ab b. Mu c awiya, though Tustari 
has here referred to him as ‘Abu Mus c ab. See Tabari, History, vol. 3, Children of Israel, trans. Brinner, p. 31. 

12 Substituting muta'addibun for muta'awwibun in the published edition, on the basis of Z515, f. 72b; F638, f. 34a; and F3488, 
f. 245b. 

13 Moses earlier had the reputation of being easily angered, as for example in 28:18. See also Tabari, History, vol. 3, Children 
of Israel, trans. Brinner, p. 42. 

14 MS Z515, f. 72b has lima arahu instead of lima ra'ahu, which comes to the same, in that Moses was seeing what God 
showed him. 


125 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


However, He did not will for him [Pharaoh] faith (imdn), for had He willed it. He would have 
said, ‘So he may believe.’ 15 Rather, God, Mighty and Majestic is He, intended by this [command] 
that Moses SKS should show graciousness ( mulatafa ) through the most beautiful discourse and 
gentlest speech, for this moves the hearts of all people, just as the Prophet M said, ‘Hearts have 
been created with the disposition to love those who are good to them and to hate those who 
do wrong to them.’ 16 This was to pre-empt his [Pharaoh’s] argument ( hujja ), and to awaken 
interest in those among the sorcerers and others whom God knew would be guided. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:46] He said, ‘Do not fear, for I shall be with the two of you, hearing and seeing’. 

He said: 

God informed them [Moses and Aaron] that He was with them through His regard ( nazar ), 
witnessing every predicament they experience, [and] through His strength ( quwwa ), aid 
( ma‘una ) and support ( tafid ). So [He said], ‘Do not be afraid of conveying the message under 
any circumstances.’ 

[[20:81] Eat of the good things We have provided for you, but do not transgress regarding them ...] 17 
His words, Exalted is He, concerning this are [an admonition] that you should eat from them 
[the good things provided by God] in order to sustain yourselves, and should not satiate your- 
selves to the extent that you reach a state of intoxication ( sukr ) in which you are diverted from 
the remembrance [of God], for intoxication is forbidden. 

And he said: 

Whoever forces hunger upon himself, his blood will decrease in proportion to that, and in 
proportion to how much his blood decreases, evil suggestions (waswasa) will be blocked from 
entering his heart. If a mad person forced hunger upon himself he would become sane. The 
Prophet M said, ‘There is not a vessel more detestable to God than a stomach filled with food.’ 18 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:111] And faces shall be humbled before the Living, the Eternal Sustainer... 

He said: 

It means: They are humbled before Him in accordance with their station in gnosis ( ma‘rifa ) of 
God and their being empowered ( tamkin ) for receiving success ( tawftq ) from Him. 

His words: 

[20:123] ■■■then whoever follows My guidance will not go astray, nor fall into misery. 

He said: 

That is, following and adhering to the Book and the Sunna. [Such a person] will not deviate 
from the path of guidance, and will not fall into wretchedness either in the Hereafter or in the 
present life. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[20:131] Nor extend your gaze to what We have given to some pairs among them to enjoy [as] the 
flower of the life of this world... 


15 The verse actually says: ‘ that perhaps he may be mindful '* [20:44]. 

16 TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 1, p. 149; c AjlunI, Kashf al-khafa\ vol. 1, p. 395; and Quda c i, Musnad al-Shihab, vol. 1, p. 
350 . 

17 Tustarl appears in his commentary to have moved ahead to the next verse (20:81), which we have added in square brackets. 
All the MSS (Z515, f. 72b, F636, f. 34a and F3488, f. 346a) have qawluhu ta c alafihi an kulii minha, which may indicate 
that the words of 20:81, which would have followed the words qawluhu ta c ala , may have been omitted. But the editors 
of both published editions have assumed the words: kulii minha to be the words of the verse Tustari is commenting on, 
with the editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition adding the reference for 2:58, since the words for that verse also 
read: kulii min tayyibat ma razaqnakum. 

18 Bayhaqi, Sunan al-kubra (Beirut, 1994), vol. 4, p. 177 and c Ajluni, Kashf al-khafa\ vol. 2, p. 260. 


126 


20 Ta Ha 


He said: 

That is, ‘Do not direct your attention to that which results in the whispering of Satan, opposi- 
tion ( mukhalafa ) to the All-Merciful, cravings ( amanl ) from the lower self, or acquiescence 
( sukun ) in what is familiar to one’s [basic] nature (fab c )’; for each one of these is among the 
things which cut a person off from the remembrance ( dhikr ) of God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 



12 7 


2i Al-Anbiya D 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[21:7] ...Ask the People of Remembrance, if you do not know. 

He said: 

That is, the people who possess understanding of God and those who have knowledge of God, 
His commands and His days ( ayydm ).* 

They said: ‘Describe them for us.’ He replied: 

Those possessed of knowledge are of three [kinds]. There are those who have knowledge of God 
but do not know His commandments or His days; they are the generality of the believers. There 
are those who have knowledge of God and His commandments but not of His days; they are 
the learned scholars. Then there are those who have knowledge of God, His commandments 
and His days; they are the prophets and veracious ( siddiqun ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[21:10] And now We have sent down [as revelation] to you a Book in which is remembrance that 
is yours... 

That is, ‘[You will find] life ( haydt ) through acting according to it.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[21:27] They do not [venture to] speak before He speaks, and they act according to His command. 
He said: 

Verily God, Exalted is He, has assigned every token of honour ( kardmdt ) 1 2 [firstly] to those among 
His servants who are mindful of Him ( muttaqun ), and then to novices (mubtadfun). Then he 
described them saying They do not [venture to] speak before He speaks, meaning: There is no 
choice for them along with His choice; they act according to His command, which is outwardly 
following the Sunna, and inwardly, maintaining vigilence ( murdqabat ) concerning God. 

His words: 

[21:35] ■■■We test you with ill and good by way of a trial... 

He said: 

111 ( sharr ) is the following of the lower self and desire (hawa), without guidance. Good ( khayr ) 
is [being granted] protection ( ‘isma ) from disobedience, and assistance ( mduna ) in obedience. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[21:83] And [mention] Job, when he called out to his Lord, ‘Indeed, harm has befallen me...’ 

He said: 

Suffering (durr) is of two kinds: outward suffering ( zdhir ) and inward suffering ( bdtin ). The 
inward kind is a commotion ( haraka ) and perturbation ( idtirab ) [within] the soul (nafs) in 


1 On these levels of understanding see Mystical Vision , pp. 226-7. According to Makki, the ‘Days of God’ refer to ‘Gods 
hidden blessing and His concealed punishments’. See Makki, Qut al-qulub, vol. 1, p. 254; Makki (attrib.), c J/m al-qulub, 
p. 64. 

2 Verse 26 speaks of God’s honoured servants , so that Tustari is here taking up the concept of honour or favour. 


128 


2i Al-Anbiyd 1 


response to a moving emotional experience ( warid ). The outward kind is when [the emotion] 
that is concealed in a person becomes outwardly apparent. [However], when what is being 
suffered inwardly settles [within a person, his] exterior becomes still and does not show it, and 
he patiently endures those pains. But when the interior ( batin ) becomes unsettled ( taharraka ) 
under the influence of the [emotional] experience, the persons exterior will be shaken into 
weeping and loud cries. His [Job’s] plea to God, Mighty and Majestic is He, is that He grant him 
assistance in finding acceptance ( rida ) in his heart for that experience. This is because as long 
as the heart is accepting of God’s command, the servant will not be harmed by his outward 
reaction. 3 Just consider the instance of the Prophet’s weeping $g. Note that when he wept on 
the death of his son Ibrahim, he wept for him out of compassion in accordance with his human 
nature. Yet his physical response did not harm him because his heart was accepting ( radin ) of it. 
Sahl used to say to his companions: 

Say in your supplication {diFa 1 )-. ‘O my Tord, if you cook me, I’ll bear it and if you roast me, I’ll 
be happy. 4 It is essential that You be known, so favour me with gnosis {mar if a) of You.’ 

He was asked about the abode ( dar ), whether it was an abode of Islam or disbelief. 5 He replied, ‘The 
abode is the abode of tribulation {bald 1 ) and testing {ikhtibarf . 6 

c Abd al-Rahman al-MarwazI asked Sahl, ‘What do you say of a man whose lower self has been 
calling him to satiate it on the leaves of a lotus tree {sidr) for eighteen days?’ Sahl answered, ‘What 
do you say of a man whose lower self has been calling him to let him just catch the scent of the 
leaves of a lotus tree Tor twenty-five days 1 ?’ 7 He 8 said, lc Abd al-Rahman started at this and became 
indignant.’ 9 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[21:69] We said: ‘O Fire! Be coolness and safety for Abraham . 10 
He said: 

Fire is [generally] authorised to burn; even so it will not burn anyone whom it is not authorised 
to burn. 

TJmar b. Wasil al- Anbari said, ‘I was with Sahl one night and removed the wick from the lamp, but 
in the process a small part of the flame touched my finger, causing me pain. Then Sahl looked at 
me and put his finger [in the flame] for nearly two hours without feeling any pain and without it 
having any effect on his finger, saying all the while, “I take refuge in God from the Fire.’” 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[21:105] Indeed the land shall be inherited by My righteous servants. 

He said: 

He associated them with Himself and He graced them with the adornment of virtue {saldh). 
What is implied by this is: ‘Nothing is acceptable to Me except that which is done solely 
for Me without a trace within it for anyone besides Me.’ They are those who have put their 


3 lit. the acts of his bodily members, jawarih. 

4 That is, substituting mas c ud from MS Z515, f. 74b and F3488, f. 247a for mahnudh meaning thoroughly cooked in the 
published edition. MS F638, f. 34b appears to have stfud. 

5 What is meant by dar in their question is this world. 

6 Perhaps this question and the preceding comment has been inserted here on account of Tustaris answer, which is relevant 
to the subject of being tested (cooked or roasted) by God in this life, and the need to be accepting of the suffering we 
experience. 

7 Inserted on the basis of MSS Z515, f. 74b, and F3488, f. 247b. MS F638, f. 34b has the last part of c Abd al-Rahmans question 
and all of Sahl s reply missing. 

8 Probably either Abu Bakr al-Sijzi or c Umar b. Wasil al- c AnbarI. 

9 A similar tradition is related in MakkI, Qut al-qulub, vol. 2, pp. 292-3. 

10 On this story of Abraham, see above, p. 32, n. 110. See also, 6:77 and p. 66, n. 13. 


129 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


innermost secret ( sarlra ) in a good state with God, Exalted is He, and have detached themselves 
wholeheartedly from all besides Him. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 21 : 106 ] ...Indeed there is in this [Qur’an] a proclamation for people who are devout... 

He said: 

He did not make it a proclamation ( baldgh ) for all His servants. Rather, He made it especially 
for the group of people who are [true] worshippers ( c abidun ) . They are those who worship God, 
Exalted is He, and give their entire being ( muhaj ) to Him, not for a recompense, nor because 
of Paradise or Hell, but out of love ( hubb ) [for Him], and taking pride in the fact that He has 
made them worthy of worshipping Him. But God knows best. 



130 


22 Al-Hajj 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[22:3] And among mankind are those who dispute about God without any knowledge... 

That is, they dispute about religion as their whim ( hawd ) [dictates], or through analogical 
[reasoning] (qiyas), without following [exemplary guidance] ( iqtida By doing this they lead 
people astray and produce innovation. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[22:11] And among mankind there is the one who worships God, as it were, on a knife edge... 

The believer has one face, without a reverse side; he makes repeated [advances] and never retreats. 
You will see him striving for the cause of God’s religion and His obedience, upholding God’s 
oneness and the emulation of His Prophet fg, constantly making humble entreaty ( tadarruf 
of God and seeking refuge in Him in the hope of connecting to Him through following [exem- 
plary guidance]. Zayd b. Aslam related from the Prophet fg that he said: ‘Every person of my 
nation (umma) will enter Paradise, save the one who refuses.’ We said, ‘O Messenger of God 
who will refuse that?’ He said, ‘Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise, and whoever disobeys 
me has refused to enter Paradise.’ 1 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[22:11] ...if good [fortune] befalls him, he is reassured by it... 

That is, whoever follows [his] desire, if his heart is satisfied and his lower self is happy in its 
worldly share, he will feel reassured by it. Otherwise he will return to the disbelief that his 
desire calls him to. 3 
His words: 

[22:14] Truly God shall admit those who believe and perform righteous deeds into gardens... 

He said: 

They are those who were faithful to God in secret as well as in public, and followed the Sunna 
of the Prophet J6 and did not innovate in any situation. 

His words: 

[22:18] ...the sun and the moon ... 4 
He said: 

The prostration of these things consists of their recognition ( mdrifa ) of God [manifested] 
through their abasing themsleves ( tadhallul ) and submitting ( inqiyad ) to Him. 


1 The nature of this exemplary guidance is not specified here, but it could refer to the Prophets Sunna, guidance of the 
pious predecessors ( salaf ), or of a spiritual teacher. See above. IT, pp. liii-liv. 

2 Bukhari, Sahth, ‘al-Ptisam biT-Kitab wal-sunna. 

3 ‘Otherwise meaning if an ordeal befalls him he will return to unbelief, as it says later in the same verse: ...he makes a 
turn about, losing this world and the Hereafter. That is the manifest loss. 

4 The context of these words is: Have you not seen that to God prostrate whoever is in the earth, together with the sun and 
the moon, and the stars and the mountains, the trees and the animals... [ 22:18]. 


131 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words: 

[22:26] ...Purify My House for those who circumambulate it... 

That is, ‘Purify My House from idols, for those among My servants whose hearts are pure 
from doubt ( shakk ), misgivings ( rayb ) and hardness ( qaswa ). Therefore, just as God has com- 
manded the purification of His House [at Mecca] from idols, so also He has commanded the 
purification of that house of His in which He deposited the mystery of faith ( sirr al-iman) and 
the light of gnosis ( nur al-ma c rifa), namely, the heart of the believer. God, Exalted is He, has 
commanded the believer to purify himself from rancour ( ghill ), deceit ( ghishsh ), inclination 
towards the lusts of the lower self ( shahawdt al-nafs ) and heedlessness ( ghafla ). For those who 
circumambulate it [the Ka"ba], as also for those who uphold the lights of faith, there will be 
manifold increase in [God-given] success ( tawftq ). 

[22:26] ...And those who bow and prostrate themselves 

in fear and hope. Truly the heart r is [like] a house 15 : if it is unoccupied it goes to ruin, and 
[likewise] if it is occupied by other than its owner, r or by other than one whom the owner has 
settled there 1 , it will also go to ruin. Therefore, if you wish your hearts to be in good repair, do 
not let your prayer in them be other than to God, Exalted is He; 6 r if you want to keep your breasts 
(sudur) in good repair, let not anything be in them other than [awareness of] the Hereafter 1 ; 5 6 7 if 
you want to preserve your tongues, do not let your prayer on them be other than truthfulness 
( sidq ); and if you wish to preserve your bodily members, do not allow them to become engaged 
with anything other than what is in accordance with the Sunna. 

His words: 

[22:27] And announce among the people the [season for] Pilgrimage. They shall come to you on 
foot... 

Verily God, Exalted is He, has servants among whom some go to mosques on thrones ( sarir ), 
and some ride on conveyances of gold covered with silk and drawn by angels. 

Ahmad b. Salim said, ‘I was working on a piece of land to improve it, when I saw Sahl on a couch 
above the water of the Euphrates River.’ He also said, ‘One day I entered Sahl’s house, the door of 
which was very small, and I saw a horse standing there. Then I left in fright, wondering how it could 
have entered through such a small door. Sahl saw me and told me to come back, so I returned and 
saw nothing there.’ 8 

It has been related that TJmar b. al-Khattab was gazing down on the congregation at "Arafat 
and said, ‘If only the congregation in this plain knew [the hosts] who have descended, they would 
have rejoiced at His bounty (fadl ) after [receiving tidings of] being forgiven ( maghfira )’. 9 
His words: 

[22:28] ...And celebrate God’s name, on specified days, over the livestock He has provided for 
them... 

[By which] is meant the gifts and sacrifices. It was related of Fath al-Mawsill that on the day of 
Eid he looked down over the city of Mosul and could see smoke rising from many houses, so 
he said, ‘O my Lord! How many people are drawing closer to You through sacrifice ( qurban ) 
this night! I have also tried to draw closer to You through sacrifice,’ that is to say, through 
prayers ( salawat ). ‘What will You make of it, O Beloved One?’ 10 It was related of "Adi b. Thabit 


5 Added on the basis of MS F638, f. 35a only, but the addition of the word bay t here really makes better sense and completes 
the analogy. 

6 Who, as we saw above, is the Owner of hearts. 

7 The other additions in the passage were made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 76a, MS F638, f. 35a and MS F3488, 
f. 248b. 

8 On some charismatic gifts ( karamat ) attributed to Tustari, see IT, above p. xx. 

9 As part of the Hajj, pilgrims gather on the plain of c Arafat and stay there from after the dawn prayer until sunset. 

10 Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-safwa, vol. 4, p. 188; Ibn Hanbal, Kitab al-Ward (Beirut, 1983), p. 92. 


132 


22 Al-Hajj 


al-Ansarl that he said, ‘The sacrifice of those who are mindful of God ( muttaqun ) is prayer.’ 11 
But God knows best. 

His words: 

[22:29] ... And perform the circumambulation of the Ancient House. 

He said: 

People have differed concerning this. Hasan said, ‘He called it Ancient ( c atiq) to honour it, just 
as the Arabs speak of an “ancient” body, and an “ancient” horse if it is noble.’ 12 
My maternal uncle, Muhammad b. Sawwar, 13 related on the authority of al-Thawri that he 
said, ‘It is called this because it is the oldest ( aqdam ) and most ancient (cftaq) place of worship 
belonging to God, just as He said: The first House (of worship) to be established for people was 
that at Bakka, a blessed place [3:96].’ 

Some have said, ‘He [God] called it c atiq because no tyrant ever headed for it with an evil design 
without God’s destroying him and freeing ( aHaqa ) His House from him. Some have said, ‘It 
is because it was saved ( uHiqa ) from being submerged during the great flood and raised to 
the sky’ Just as God has freed His House, so He has also freed the heart of the believer from 
other [than Him]. It [the Ka c ba] is older than anything else that God, Exalted is He, erected on 
His earth as a sign ( c alam ), and He placed it within the Sacred Mosque ( al-Masjid al-Hardm ). 
Likewise the heart has [within it] another heart, which is the position from which the servant 
stands before his Master without being agitated or busied by anything, but in a state of tranquil 
repose in Him ( sdkin ilayhi). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[22:46] ...Indeed, it is not the eyes that become blind, but it is their hearts that become blind 

within the breasts. 

He said: 

Is it not true that with the light of the heart’s insight ( nur basar al-qalb ) a person can overcome 
desire and lust? But when the heart’s sight is blind to what is within it, lust will overcome him 
and heedlessness (ghafla) will [afflict] him at regular intervals. Consequently his body will 
stray into 14 sin without being guided to God under any circumstances. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[22:52] We did not send before you any Messenger or prophet but that when he recited [the scrip- 
ture] Satan cast [something] into his recitation... 

He said: 

That is, if he recites [the Scripture] and his lower self notices the recitation, 15 Satan casts [some- 
thing into it], for he 16 has a partnership with the lower self in this, and that noticing of the 
recitation comes from the desire of the lower self and its lust. However, if [the person reciting] 
then witnesses the One remembered ( madhkur ) instead of the remembrance [itself] ( dhikr ), 
the heart will become oblivious of it [the recitation], and he will not witness anything besides 
his Master. Consequently Satan will become one of his captives. Do you not see how if a servant 
is inattentive ( sahd ) in his recitation (qird'a) or in his remembrance of his Lord, Mighty and 


11 Ibn Abl Shayba, al-Musannaf, vol. 2, p. 159. 

12 The word c atiq can mean excellent, when associated with being old. 

13 Translating ‘my maternal uncle Muhammad b. Sawwar ( khalt Muhammad b. Sawwar ), on the basis of MS F638, f 36a. 
MSS: Z515, f. 76a and F3488, f. 249a have ‘Muhammad b. Sawwar s maternal uncle’ (khal Muhammad b. Sawwar), while 
the printed edition has ‘his maternal uncle’ ( khaluhu ). 

14 MS F638, f. 35b has mutakhabbitan, meaning ‘blunder or stray into’, instead of mutakhattiyan, meaning ‘err’. 

15 In a vain manner. On the manner in which the Qur’an should and should not be recited, see Tustari’s comments above, 
IC, pp. 3-4 and pp. 7-8. 

16 The published edition has ‘into his ear’ ( alqafi udhnihi) before the words idh lahu. However these words do not appear 
in any of the MSS. MS Z515, f. 76a has adhalla c alal-nafs, which could easily be a misreading of idh lahu. 


133 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Majestic is He, his heart acquiesces in the basest pleasures ( huzuz ) of his lower self and thus 
can the Enemy [Satan] get at him. Hasan said, ‘The whispering (waswas) is of two kinds, one 
of which is from the lower self and the other from Satan. That which persists in coming is from 
the lower self, and assistance against it is sought through fasting, prayer and propriety ( adab ). 
However, that which [comes, but then] withdraws ( nabdhan ) is from Satan, and assistance 
against it is sought through the recitation of the QuTan and remembrance [of God] ( dhikr ).’ 

His words: 

[22:54] ■■■ so that they may believe therein and their hearts may be humbled to Him. . . 

He said: 

True faith ( sidq al-iman ) and its [true] realisation ( haqiqa ) produce humility (ikhbat) within the 
heart, which consists of tenderness ( riqqa ), fear ( khashiya ) and humble submission ( khushu c ) 
in the heart, and results in long periods of reflection (fikr ) and silence ( samt ). These are among 
the results of faith, for God, Exalted is He, has said: So that they may believe in it and their hearts 
may be humbled to Him. And God knows best. 



134 


23 Al-Mif minim 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[23:1-2] Indeed, prosperous are the believers, those who in their prayers are humbly submissive 
(khashfun), 

[Sahl was asked], ‘What is humble submission?’ He replied: 

Humble submission ( khushul ) is openly [manifested] ( c alaniyya ). It is to stand before God, 
Exalted is He, while maintaining the conditions for the finest conduct ( adab ) required by the 
One who commands ( al-Amir ), which is to purge your [moments of] activity ( harakat ) and 
stillness ( sukun ) from anything other than Him. The root of this is fear ( khashiya ) within the 
innermost secret ( sirr ). If a person is given fear, humble submission will manifest in his exterior 
and this is one of the conditions of [true] faith. 

It has been related of Hasan b. All that when he finished his ablutions, the colour of his face 

would change and he was asked about that. He said, ‘It is appropriate that the face of the one 
who intends to enter the presence of the Master of the Throne [God] should change colour.’ It 
is related of the Prophet M that he said to Mu c adh, ‘Truly, the Qur'an has curbed ( qayyada ) the 
believer from much of what his lower self desires, and by God’s permission has come between 
him and his being ruined by that desire. Indeed, the believer is a captive to whomsoever has a 
rightful claim over him. O Mu adh! The believer strives to liberate himself. O Mu c adh! Truly a 
believer’s fear will not abate, nor his unrest be stilled until he leaves behind him the Traverse 
over Hell. 1 0 Mu c adh! Truly the believer knows that there are observers keeping watch over his 
hearing, sight, tongue, hands, feet, stomach and genitals, and even the blinking of his eye, the 
particles of mud on his fingers, the kohl in his eyes and every movement he makes. Mindfulness 
of God ( taqwd ) is his companion ( raftq ), the Qur'an is his guide ( dalil ), fear ( khawf) is his way 
( mahajja ), longing ( shawq ) is his riding beast ( matiyya ), dread ( wajl ) is his emblem ( shfdr ), 
prayer (salat) is his cave [of refuge] ( kahf ), fasting ( siydm ) is his garden [or Paradise] ( janna ), 
charity (sadaqa) is his source of liberation (fikak), truthfulness ( sidq ) is his vizier, shame (hayal) 
is his emir, and behind all of these, his Lord is on the look out ( bi-mirsdd ). O Mu c adh! I wish 
for you what I wish for myself. I have forbidden you that which Gabriel forbade me. I do 
not know anyone at all who will join me on the Day of Resurrection and who will be happier 
than you at what God has granted you.’ 2 
His words: 

[23:17] And verily We created above you seven paths... 

That is, the seven veils ( hujub ) which veil [a person] from his Lord, Mighty and Majestic is He: 
the first veil is his intellect ( c aql), the second his knowledge (Him), the third his heart (qalb), the 
fourth his fear (khashiya), the fifth his self (nafs), the sixth his wish (irada) and the seventh his 
will (mashfa). The intellect [is a veil] in its preoccupation with the management of the affairs 


1 The ‘Traverse’ ( sirat ) is traditionally described as a bridge stretched over the gulf of Hell, sharper than a sword and 
thinner than a hair, which all the believers are made to cross at the Resurrection. It is described in Ghazali s Ihya J c ulum 
al-din. Book 40: Kitab Dhikr al-mawt wa-ma bcfdahu, trans. Timothy J. Winter, as The Remembrance of Death and the 
Afterlife (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 205-10. 

2 TabaranI, al-Mu c jam al-awsat, vol. 8, p. 176; Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 1, pp. 26-7, and vol. 10, p. 31. 


135 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


of this world ( tadblr al-dunya); knowledge because of the vainglory ( mubahat ) [it breeds] 
among peers; the heart in its heedlessness ( ghafla ); fear because of its disregard for influxes [of 
grace from above] ( bi-ighfaliha c an mawarid al-umur c alayhaY; the self because it is the haven 
( ma’wa ) for every tribulation ( baliyya ); the will because it is directed towards this world and 
turned away from the Hereafter; the wish due to its pursuance of sins. 

His words: 

[23:5r] ...Eat of the good things and perform righteous acts... 

That is, ‘Eat what is legitimate to sustain yourselves whilst keeping propriety.’ Sustenance 
( qiwam ) is that which you need to maintain your body while preserving your heart. Propriety 
in this is to show gratitude ( shukr ) to the Bestower of blessings ( al-Mun c im ). The least amount 
of gratitude a person should show is not to disobey Him by [abusing] any of the blessings [He 
has bestowed upon him]. 

His words: 

[23:57] Surely those who are in awe of their Lord are apprehensive, 

He said: Fear ( khashiya ) is broken-heartedness ( inkisdr al-qalb) which comes from constantly 
standing ( intisdb ) before Him . 3 4 After this level comes fearful apprehension ( ishfdq ), which is a 
milder (araqq) state than fear and more subtle ( altaf ). 5 Fear is milder than dread ( khawf) and 
dread is milder than terror ( rahba ), but for each one there is a particular characteristic and a place. 

His words: 

[23:76] . . . Yet they did not humble themselves to their Lord, nor do they devote themselves to prayer. 
They did not devote themselves solely to their Lord in worship nor did they abase themselves 
before Him in His unicity ( wahdaniyya ). 



3 Note the use of c alayha, feminine referring back to fear {khashiya), and thus suggesting a direct connection between these 
divine influxes of grace from God and the state of fear. As Tustari has indicated a number of times, fear is a condition 
of true faith, yet in itself it can become a veil. 

4 That is, maintaining a reverential awareness of His presence. 

5 The printed edition has al-lutf instead of altaf, which is clearly written in MSS: Z515, f. 78a and F3488, f. 251a. MS F638, 
f. 36a appears to have the extra Tam’ of al-lutf partially erased. 


136 


24 Al-Nur 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[24:1] [This is] a sura which We have revealed and prescribed... 

That is. We compiled it and expounded within it what is lawful and unlawful. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[24:22] ...Let them forgive and excuse... 

That is, Xet them pardon the wrong done to them by people.’ It is related from Sufyan al-Thawrl 
that he said, ‘God sent the revelation to TJzayr: 1 “If you are not good natured such that you are 
like a morsel in the mouths of the children of Adam, I will not record you among the humble 
( mutawadfun ).” TJzayr replied, “O my Tord, what is the hallmark of the one whom You have 
chosen for Your love ( mawadda)V ’ He replied, “I make him content with a meagre provision, 
and I activate him to [prepare for] the momentous and tremendous [event]. 2 [His hallmark is 
also that he] eats little and weeps much; he seeks My forgiveness before dawn, and detests the 
licentious (fujjdr) for My sake.’” 

His words: 

[24:26] Vile women are for vile men... 

Women who have corrupted hearts are for men with corrupted hearts, and men who have 
corrupted hearts are for women with corrupted hearts. 

His words: 

[24:30] Say to the believing men to lower their gaze... 

That is, avert your gaze from that which God, Exalted is He, has forbidden you. This means to 
avoid any look that lacks a sense of honour. It is related from TJbada b. Samit that the Prophet M 
said, ‘If you can safeguard six things, I will guarantee for you entry into Paradise: be truthful 
when you speak; fulfil whatever you promise; carry out what has been entrusted to you [to do]; 
keep your chastity; lower your gaze; and refrain from doing harm to anyone.’ 3 
It is reported that Ibn TJmar A was asked, ‘Did the Messenger of God ever look around during 
the prayer?’ He answered, ‘Not even outside the prayer [did he look around].’ 

His words: 

[24:31] ...And rally to God in repentance, O believers... 


1 c Uzayr is mentioned only once in the Qur'an [9:30], The Jews say: c Uzayr is the son of God; and the Christians say: The 
Messiah is the son of God. Muslim commentators have usually identified c Uzayr with Ezra, or occasionally with the man 
who slept for a hundred years, referred to in 2:259. However, modern scholars have variously identified him with Enoch, 
Azazel and even Osiris. See H. Lazarus Yafeh, ‘TJzayr’, El 2 , vol. x, p. 960. According to Muslim tradition, God caused 
the Jews of c Uzayr’s time to forget the Torah, due to their sinning. c Uzayr grieved over this loss, and was consequently 
enlightened by a divine flame and taught the entire Torah by God. Once it was confirmed that what he had received was 
indeed the Torah, people started to revere him as the son of God. We can see in Tustari’s comment above that c Uzayr is 
regarded as a recipient of divine revelation. 

2 i.e. the Resurrection. 

3 BayhaqI, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 4, pp. 206 and 230. 


137 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


[Sahl] was asked: ‘What is repentance ( tawba)V He replied: 

It is that you exchange your ignorance for knowledge, your forgetfulness for remembrance and 
your disobedience for obedience. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[24:35] God is the light of the heavens and the earth... 

That is, the One who has adorned the heavens and earth with lights. 4 The likeness of his light 
means the likeness of the light of Muhammad $§. Hasan al-Basri said, ‘He intended by this the 
heart of the believer and the luminescence ( diya ') of professing the divine oneness ( tawhid ), for 
the hearts of the prophets 86® are far too brilliant in their light to be described in terms of the 
likeness of these lights. He said, 5 ‘The similitude of the light of the Qur'an is a lamp ( misbah ), 
a lamp whose candle ( sirdj ) is gnosis ( maTifa ), whose wick (fatil ) is the religious obligations 
(fard’id), whose oil ( duhn ) is sincerity ( ikhlas ) and whose light {nur) is the light of [spiritual] 
attainment ( ittisdl ). 6 Whenever the sincerity increases in purity, the lamp increases in bright- 
ness ( diya '); and whenever the religious obligations increase in [inner] realisation ( haqiqa ), 
the lamp increases in light {nur). 

His words: 

[24:37] ...They fear a day when hearts and eyes will be tossed about, 

That is, the Day of Resurrection, when hearts and eyes will turn over, in one state after another, 
and will not remain constantly in one state. 7 The believer is the one who fears that Day. Accord- 
ing to a saying related from Hasan [al-Basri], someone mentioned in his presence, ‘There is 
a man who will leave the Hellfire after a thousand years’, to which Hasan responded, ‘If only 
I were him.’ 8 It was related from c Awn b. c Abd Allah that he said, ‘Tuqman counselled his son, 
saying: “Have hope in God without feeling secure from His ruse ( makr ) and fear God without 
despairing of His mercy.” 9 He responded [by asking] , “How can I do that when I only have one 
heart?” He replied: “O my son, the believer has two hearts, one with which he carries hope in 
God and the other with which he fears Him.’” 10 And God knows best. 



4 On Sufi interpretations of the Light Verse (24:35), see Gerhard Bowering, ‘The Light Verse: Qur’anic Text 
Interpretation, Oriens 36 (2001), pp. 113-44. 

5 All three MSS (Z515 f. 79a; F638, f. 36b and F3488, f. 252a) have qala al-Thawri, while the published edition 
al-nur. The latter, which is what we have translated, seems more likely. 

6 This is on the basis of Bowering s translation. 

7 Commenting on the words, They fear a day when hearts and eyes will be tossed about, Tabari writes that hearts will be 
tossed or turned about in terror ( hawl ) at it (the Day or what they are to experience), while eyes are turned about to see 
from which direction they will be seized, or in which hand their book will be given to them, the right or the left. 

8 Hasan al-Basri was known for his austerity and fear of God. 

9 On the divine ruse see above Tustari s commentary on 2:41 and p. 20, n. 47. See also p. 42, n. 10. 

10 Though elsewhere, Tustari accords with 33:4 ( God has not placed two hearts inside any man), when he contends that 
man has only one heart. On this, see IT, p. xlvi above. 


and Sufi 
has qala 


138 


25 Al-Furqan 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[25:1] Blessed is He who revealed the Criterion... 

Sahl said: 

That is, Majestic and Exalted is He who privileged Muhammad M by revealing to him the 
Criterion ( furqdn ), that he may distinguish truth from falsehood, friend from foe, and the one 
who is close [to God] from the one who is remote [from Him]; to His servant, that is, to His 
purest servant, His most privileged Prophet, His closest beloved, and the foremost of His elect; 
that he may be to all the worlds a Warner, that is, so that he may be a lamp ( sirdj ) and a light 
(nur), by which We guide people to [follow] the rulings of the Qudan, so that they can proceed 
thereby according to the path of truth ( tariq al-haqq) and the way of veracity ( minhaj al-sidq). 
His words: 

[25:20] ...And We have made some of you a trial for others, will you be steadfast ? Your Lord is 
ever Watchful. 

He said: 

Verily, God, Exalted is He, has commanded steadfastness ( sabr ) in the face of that in which He 
has placed a test (fitna ) for mankind. From this [steadfastness] comes a diminishing in ones 
coveting ( itraq ) what [other] people possess. Abu Ayyub related concerning the Prophet M 
that a man came to him r and said ‘Give me a sermon, in a few words 1 ’, 1 so he said, ‘When you 
stand for prayer, perform the prayer of one who is bidding farewell; 2 do not say anything which 
you will be sorry for saying tomorrow; and resolve to give up hope of [attaining] that which 
other people possess.’ 3 

Indeed our predecessors used to take full advantage of this [admonition], such that it is related 
of Hudhayfa that he said, ‘Truly, the most delightful day for me is the day on which I return 
home and my family complains to me of their need. This is because I heard the Messenger of 
God M say: “Verily God has kept the world from his believing servant, just as the family of a 
sick person keeps food and drink from him. Indeed, God promises the believer affliction ( bald 1 ) 
just as the father promises good things ( khayr ) for his son.’” 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[25:28] Oh woe is me! Would that I had not taken so and so as a friend! 

He said: 

The soundest friendship is that which does not lead to regret ( nadama ), and that is nothing 
less than intimacy (uns) with God, Exalted is He, and seclusion from people. The Messenger of 
God M used to observe seclusion ( khalwa ) for the sake of the knowledge that God had opened 
to his heart, for he liked to reflect upon it. 


1 Added on the basis of Z515, f. 79b and F638, f. 36b. 

2 i.e. bidding farewell to this world, that is, with the care you would take if it were the very last prayer you were able to 
make. 

3 Ibn Maja, Sunan , ‘Bab al-Hikma; Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 5, p. 412. 


139 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Everything will befriend the person whose prayer is good. Such a person will be stirred during 
sleep at the prayer times so that he awakes. This is done by his brothers among the jinn who 
have befriended him. They may also accompany him when he travels and give him priority 
over themselves. The angels may even befriend him. 4 Once a man made a request from Sahl 
saying, ‘I really want to keep your company.’ He said, ‘When one of us dies, let whomsoever 
keeps company with the one who survives, keep his company from then on.’ 5 
Al-RabI b. Khaytham was sitting on his porch one day when a stone came flying at him and 
struck his forehead making a gash in it, upon which he said, ‘Truly, you have been admonished, 
O Ibn Khaytham!’ Then he entered his home, shutting the door behind him and was not seen 
seated in that same position up to his death. 6 

His words: 

[25:58] Put your trust in the Living One who does not die... 

Ibn Salim was asked about trust ( tawakkul ) and earning ( kasb ), and through which of these [two] 

people should serve [God]. He said: 

Trust ( tawakkul ) was the state of being ( hdl ) of the Messenger of God M and earning was his 
Sunna. He only established the Sunna of earning for them due to their weakness, after they fell 
from the rank of trust (tawakkul), which was his state of being. However he did not demote 
them from the rank of seeking a living through earning, which is his Sunna. Furthermore, had 
it not been for that [the Sunna of earning] they would have perished. 7 

Sahl said: 

Whoever defames earning (kasb), has defamed the Sunna and whoever defames trust (tawakkul) 
has defamed faith. 8 

His words: 

[25:63] ...And when the ignorant address them they say [words of] peace... 

That is, they say that which is correct and appropriate. Hasan al-Basrl said: ‘This was their 
way during the day. However, during the night they were as God describes them in the next 
verse, Those who spend the night [ in adoration of] their Lord prostrating and standing [25:64] . 

His words: 

[25:70] Except for him who repents... 

He said: 

The repentance of not one of you is acceptable until he abstains from much of that which is 
permissible for fear that it will lead him into something which is not permissible, just as ‘A’isha %, 
said, ‘Put between you and what is forbidden (hardm), a screen of that which is permissible 
(halal). It was the practise of the Messenger of God M to keep away from us for three days after 
our purification [after menstruation or childbirth] until any possibility of renewed bleeding 
(fawra) had gone.’ 


4 All three MSS (Z515, f. 80a, F638, f. 37a and F3488, f. 253a) have bihim here instead of bihi in the published edition. 
However, the flow of the text suggests bihi. 

5 It appears, then, that when two righteous people become companions, one of them will inherit on the death of the other, 
all the jinn who had kept company with his companion. But Tustari is here suggesting that they should benefit from 
the company of each others jinn even before either one of them dies. 

6 This was evidently a sign to him that he had not been enjoying the protection of the jinn. The tradition is listed in 
Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 6, p. 264, and in Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-safwa, vol. 3, p. 67. 

7 Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 10, pp. 378-9; Sulami, Tabaqat al-sufiyya, p. 431. 

8 The saying is cited in MakkI, Qut al-quliib, vol. 2, pp. 4 and 9-10. The latter citation has the variant: ‘discredited the 
oneness of God ( tawhidy instead of ‘discredited faith ( iman)\ See also Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 10, p. 195. 


140 


25 Al-Furqan 


His words: 

[25:72] And those who do not give false testimony... 

He said: 

False testimony ( zur ) is the tribunal of the [heretical] innovators. 9 But God knows best. 



9 i.e. it is what they share. 


141 


26 Al-Shu c ara 3 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[26:3] It may be that you kill yourself with grief that they will not become believers. 

He said: 

That is, that you would destroy yourself in pursuing what is required for the sake of their guid- 
ance, but the decree ( hukm ) has preceded from Us concerning the faith of every believer, and 
disbelief of every disbeliever, and there will be no change or substitution [in that decree]. The 
inner meaning of these [words] is: ‘You have been distracted from Us through your preoccupation 
with them, out of a desire that they should believe. But you are only responsible for conveying 
[the Message], so do not let your grief concerning them distract you from Us.’ 

His words: 

[26:5] And there would never come from the Compassionate One any reminder 1 that is new, but 
that they used to disregard it. 

He said: 

That is, whenever there came to them, through revelation, knowledge of the Qur’an which 
was new to them and of which they had no prior knowledge, they would turn away from it. 
This is not to say that the Reminder ( dhikr ) itself is created ( muhdath ), 2 however, for it is from 
among the attributes of the essence of God, and is therefore neither existentiated ( mukawwan ) 
nor created ( makhluq ). 3 
His words: 

[26:78] ‘...[He] who created me, it is He who guides me ,’ 4 
He said: 

‘He who created me for His adoration guides me to proximity ( qurb ) with Him.’ 

His words: 

[26:79] and provides me with food and drink, 

He said: 

‘He feeds me with the joy of faith and gives me to drink from the draught of trust ( tawakkul ) 
and of being sufficed ( kifdya ).’ 5 


1 Commentators gloss the word reminder here as revelation. 

2 This caveat has been inserted because Tustarl has used the word ahdatha in the sense of the coming of something new, 
but the verbal root h-d-th can also be used to imply something that is temporal or an accident’, in philosophical and 
theological terminology. 

3 Tustari is here indicating his belief that the Qur’an is the uncreated word of God, on which see above IT, p. xxxi. Tustarl’s 
doctrine of the divine speech as one of the attributes of God is discussed in his Risalat al-huruf, which is edited and 
analysed in the dissertations of Gaafar and Garrido Clemente. 

4 Verses 72-89 of Surat al-Shu c ara 3 relate words of Abraham, firstly his reasoning with his father and his people over the 
falsity of their worship of idols and his description of his Lord (w. 72-82), and then his prayer to God for salvation for 
himself and for forgiveness for his father (w. 83-9). 

5 On the term kifdya and its connection to husn al-zann, see above Tustari’s commentary on 2:260. 


142 


26 Al-Shu‘ara ’ 


His words: 

[26:80] and when I am sick, it is He who cures me, 

He said: 

This means: ‘If I am stirred into acting by other than Him for other than Him, He protects me 
[from carrying out that action], and if I incline towards a worldly desire He averts it from me.’ 
His words: 

[26:81] Who will make me die and then give me life [again], 

He said: 

‘He causes me to die through heedlessness (ghafla ), and then gives me life again through 
remembrance ( dhikr ).’ 

His words: 

[26:82] ‘And who, I hope, will forgive my iniquity on the Day of Judgement.’ 

He [Abraham] expressed his words according to the requisites of propriety ( adab ) [before 
God], [poised] between fear and hope, and did not [assume] that forgiveness had been pre- 
determined for him. 6 7 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[26:84] ‘And confer on me a worthy repute among posterity,’ 

He said: 

‘Grant me the praise of all nations and hosts.’ 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[26:89] except him who brings to God a heart that is sound. 

He said: 

[This refers to] the one who is preserved from innovations ( bidaJ ), who commits his affairs to 
God and who is content with God’s decree ( qadar ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[26:212] Truly they are barred from hearing [it]. 

He said: 

This means [they are barred] from listening ( istimdf to the Quhan and understanding (fahm ) 
[where] the commandments and prohibitions [are applicable]. 

His words: 

[26:214] Warn the nearest of your kinsfolk, 

He said: 

Put fear into those who are closest to you and lower the wing of [gentleness] over those who 
are distantly related to you. Guide them to Us [kindly] with the finest proofs (altaf al-dalalat), 1 
and inform them that I am Magnanimous ( al-Jawad ) and Generous ( al-Karim ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[26:227] Save those who believe and perform righteous deeds and remember God frequently. . . 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, created the innermost secret ( sirr ) and made its life consist in His remem- 
brance. He created the outward self ( zahir ) and made its life consist in praising ( hamd ) and 
thanking ( shukr ) Him. He appointed for both of them duties ( huquq ), which are works of 
obedience (td‘a). 


6 On balancing fear and hope see Tustarf s commentary on 11:75 and p. 93, n. 13 above. 

7 The word altaf, superlative or comparative of latif could also mean delicate, subtle or gracious. 


143 


27 Al-Naml 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:10, 11] . ..Surely in My presence the messengers do not fear, except he who has wronged [others] . . . 
He said: 

There was never among the prophets and messengers an oppressor. However, this address to 
them is actually indirectly referring to their people, just as when He said to the Prophet H: If 
you associate others [with God], your work shall surely fail [39:65], those who are intended are 
his nation ( umma ), for when they hear this admonition being addressed to the Prophet JS, they 
will be even more cautious [concerning themselves]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:19] ...[And he said] ‘My Lord, inspire me to be thankful for the blessings You have granted me ...’ 1 
He said: 

The servant has no right to speak except with the command of his Master, nor strike except with 
His command, nor walk except with His command, nor eat, sleep or reflect except with His 
command. This is the best form of gratitude and it is the gratitude of servants to their Master. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:19] ...and include me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants. 

He said: 

This means, ‘Grant me proximity to Your friends ( awliya f so that I may be among their com- 
pany, even though I have not reached their station ( maqdm ).’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:52] So those, then, are their houses [lying] deserted because of the evil that they did... 

He said: 

Their houses are an allusion to hearts; 2 for there are hearts which are inhabited (‘amir) through 
remembrance ( dhikr ), and there are those which are ruined ( kharib ) through heedlessness 
( ghafla ). 3 Whomsoever God, Mighty and Majestic is He, inspires with [His] remembrance, He 
has freed from oppression ( zulm ). 4 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:59] [Say] ‘Praise be to God and peace be on His servants whom He has chosen...’ 


1 These words are spoken by Solomon after he hears one of the ants warn the other ants to enter their homes lest Solomon 
and his army crush them. The Qur'an relates that Solomon smiles on hearing these words and then thanks God for the 
blessings he and his family have been granted — including, presumably, his ability to hear the language of the birds and 
other creatures. 

2 Translating the plural, qulub, on the basis of MS F638, f. 38a. 

3 See above, Tustaris commentary on 22:26, for an explanation of how houses that are unoccupied, especially by their 
owners, go to ruin, the point there being that the only occupant of the heart should be its Owner, namely God, whereas 
the emphasis here is on remembrance of God, which really comes to the same. 

4 That is, the oppression of, or wrongdoing towards, their own selves. 


144 


2j Al-Naml 


He said: 

Peace from God attaches itself to the people of the Qur'an in this life according to His saying, 
peace be on His servants; while peace [for them] in the next life [is indicated by] His saying 
‘Peace!’ the word from the Lord [who is] Merciful [36:58]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:62] Or [is] He who answers the destitute one when he calls to Him [better ]...? 5 

[Sahl] was asked, ‘Who is the destitute one (mudtarr)?’ He replied: 

It is the person who, when he raises his hands [in prayer], does not see himself having any 
good deeds other than the profession of [God’s] oneness ( tawhid ), and even considers himself 
in danger [of losing that]. 6 

On another occasion he said: 

The destitute person ( mudtarr ) is the one who has washed his hands of all power ( hawl ), strength 
( quwwa ) and reprehensible means ( asbab madhmuma ). 7 Supplication ( ddwa ) from mankind is 
of two kinds, and is answered, without doubt, whether it be from a believer or unbeliever: the 
supplication of the destitute ( mudtarr ) and the supplication of the oppressed ( mazlum)f for 
God says, Exalted is He: Or [is] He who answers the destitute one when he calls to Him... [better]?, 
and He also says, and who provides for you from the heavens and [from] the earth [27:64]. The 
supplication of the oppressed is raised above the veil, and God, Exalted is He, responds with 
the words; ‘By My glory and majesty, I will come to your aid though it may be after a while.’ 9 

His words: 

[27:65] Say, ‘No one in the heavens or on earth knows the unseen, except God...’ 

He said: 

He [God] has concealed His unseen [mystery] ( ghayb ) from creatures ( makhluqun ) in His 
[realm of] dominion (jabarut ), lest any of His servants feel secure from His ruse ( makr ). Thus, 
no one knows what has been predestined for him by God, lest their concern be with deluding 
themselves ( iham ) 10 concerning the final outcomes ( c awdqib ) and predestined events ( majdri 
al-sawdbiq), and, lest they claim for themselves that of which they are not worthy, such as claims 
of [having attained the station of] love ( mahabba ), gnosis ( ma c rifa ) and so on. 

He said: 

There were in Jerusalem (Bayt al-Maqdis ) a hundred thousand veracious ones ( siddiqun ) 
publicly known to people, such that the sound of water flowing from the roof gutters could 
not be heard due to the [noise] of those who were making their spiritual devotions at night 
[lit. spiritually striving ( mujtahidun )]. But when two things appeared [from them] they asked 
God, Exalted is He, and He caused them to die. They were: the claim to love ( mahabba ) and 
claim to have trust [in Him] ( tawakkul ). n 


5 This is one of the (rhetorical) questions that the Prophet is commanded to ask of the unbelievers, e.g. Is God better or 
the partners they ascribe [to Him]? [27:59]. 

6 A similar saying is cited in MakkI, Qut al-quliib, vol. 2, p. 9. 

7 Since to rely on secondary causes and means is to rely on other than God. 

8 The word order is changed here according to MS Z515, f. 82a, F638, f. 38a and F3488, f. 255b. 

9 On Gods responding to supplications, see also the commentary on 40:60. 

10 This is according to MS Z515, f. 82a. The published edition has ibham, which might be translated as obscuring’, and 
F638, f. 38a, ittiham, which would translate as doubt, suspicion or uncertainty, either of which would be feasible in the 
context. F3488, f. 255b, however, has ijab, which would translate as compliance’ or ‘necessity’, which would not really fit 
the context. We have followed MS Z515 in this instance. 

11 Presumably their request was that God should cause them to die, because they feared the consequences of their making 
any claim for themselves. 


145 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He was asked about the saying of al-Harith, 12 who stated, ‘I stay up at night and thirst during the 
day.’ He replied: 

He means, ‘I have no need for disclosure ( kashf) for this is the lot of the disbelievers in this life, 
and I do not share with them their lot. This is why I said, “I am a believer”’. 13 
He [Sahl] was asked about those who say something similar to that which was said by al-Harith. 
He replied: 

Their claim is false. How can their claim be acceptable when Abu Bakr and c Umar y. did not 
allow themselves to do such a thing, and a hair on their chests is better than al-Harith. However, 
al-Harith did not say that by himself, rather God brought that out [of him] as a test (fitna ) for 
all those pretentious people ( mudda c un ) who came after him. So how then is it acceptable for 
these people to claim such things for themselves? 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:73] And surely your Lord is bountiful to mankind... 

He said: 

His withholding ( manf is a bounty (fadl ), just as His giving ( c afd 3 ) is a bounty, but it is only 
the elite among the friends [of God] ( awliya 2 ) who know the situations in which deprivation 
is a bounty. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[27:88] And you see the mountains, supposing them to be fixed... He said: 

Truly God, Exalted is He, has drawn the attention of His servants to the passing of time and 
their heedlessness of it. He made the mountains as a representation of the world ( dunya ), which 
appears to the observer to be standing in support of him, when in actual fact it is taking its 
share from him. When time has run out, nothing will remain except sighs of regret over what 
is lost to the one who perceived it as standing in support of him, while in reality it was taking 
[its share from him]. 14 



12 The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition identifies him as al-Harith b. Malik b. Qays, known as Ibn al-Barsa 3 
al-Laythi, a Companion of the Prophet and transmitter of ahadith. 

13 The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition has noted that the following tradition is listed in the Musannaf of 
Ibn Abl Shayba (vol. 6, p. 170), narrated from Zubayr: The Prophet M asked, ‘How did you start the day, O Harith b. 
Malik?’ He replied, ‘I began my day as a true Muslim ( musliman haqqan)\ The Prophet then asked him, ‘Verily, every 
word has a reality (inna li-kulli qawl haqlqa). What is the reality of that (which you claimed)?’ He replied, ‘I began the 
day turning myself away from the world; I kept a vigil at night and I thirsted during the day. It was as if I were looking 
at the Throne of my Lord and had been brought forth for the reckoning. . .’ 

14 MS Z515 f. 81b, ends the commentary on this sura with the words: ‘God knows best what is right’ ( waLlahu alam bil- 
sawab). 


146 


28 Al-Qasas 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[28:11] ...So she watched him from a distance, while they were not aware . 1 

That is, at a distance from Our observance of him. 2 
His words, Exalted is he: 

[28:8] ...that he might become an enemy and a [cause of] grief for them... 

That is, they 3 raised him up to be a [cause of] joy and happiness for them, without knowing 
what the divine omnipotence had concealed within him which would make him become an 
enemy and a [source of] grief for them. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[28:10] The next day, Moses’ mother [felt] a void in her heart... 

That is, she was void of remembrance of other than God, [since she had] reliance on God’s 
promise, We shall restore him to you [28:7]. 

His words: 

[28:24] ...My Lord, I am in dire need of whatever good thing You may send me . 4 

He returned to God in a state of utter neediness ( iftiqdr ) and humble entreaty ( tadarruf and 
said, ‘Truly since You have accustomed me to Your favourable beneficence (ihsdn), I am in need 
of Your compassion ( shafaqa ), and of Your looking upon me with the [watchful] eye of [Your] 
care and protection. So bring me back from the grief and solitude of those who oppose [You] 
( mukhdlifun ) to the intimacy ( uns ) of those who are in conformity [with You] ( muwdfiqun ).’ 
Then God provided for him the companionship of Shu c ayb S&SsS and his children. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[28:60] Whatever things you have been given are only the [short-lived] enjoyment of the life of this 
world and an ornament thereof... 

He said: 

Whoever takes [something] from the world out of his own lust for it, will find that God deprives 
him of what is better than it both in this world and the Hereafter. Whoever takes from it [the 
world] out of a necessity [that arises] within himself or to fulfil a duty that is required of him, 
will not be deprived of what is better in this world, namely, the joy of worship ( Hbdda ) and the 


1 This is relating the story of Moses as an infant, when his mother had been commanded to put him into the river, and 
when Pharaohs wife took him up and requested of Pharaoh that they adopt him. Moses mother sent his sister to follow 
her brother and so, as this verse relates, she kept watch at a distance. 

2 Because God was constantly keeping watch over him. 

3 ‘They’ being Pharaohs kinsmen. 

4 These are the words of Moses’ prayer. Having killed a man in Egypt, he escaped in fear for his own life and came to 
Midian. Here, he assisted two women who were holding back from watering their flocks, because a group of shepherds 
watering their own sheep were impeding their access to the well. Moses watered their sheep for them and then retired 
to the shade and made the prayer related in this verse for assistance from God. His prayer was immediately answered 
because one of the women then took him to her father (Shu c ayb), who married her to him, and put him in charge of 
his flocks for ten years. 


147 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


love of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and in the Hereafter of the highest ranks ( al-darajat 
al-ula ). 5 

Someone said to A m i r b. c Abd al-Qays, ‘You have contented yourself with just a little from 
this world.’ He replied, ‘Shall I not inform you of someone who has contented himself with 
even less than myself?’ [Those present] said, ‘Please do!’ He answered, ‘He who has contented 
himself with having his share of this world in the Hereafter!’ 6 
His words: 

[28:76] ... ‘Do not gloat, for God does not like people who gloat ...’ 7 8 
He said: 

Whoever rejoices without good reason, will draw upon himself sorrow without end. There is no 
comfort [or rest] for the believer, save in the encounter with God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 
It was related of al-A c mash that he said, ‘We were witness to a funeral procession and did not 
know to whom we should offer our condolences due to the grief of all the people [present].’ 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[28:78] [He said] ‘In fact I have been given it [this wealth] because of knowledge I possess...’ 

He said: 

No one who has regard for himself will triumph; nor a state come into being for anyone who 
claims to possess it. The fortunate person is he who averts his eye from [looking upon] his 
states and acts; r to him is opened 18 the way of receiving grace (fadl) and being gracious to 
[others] ( ifdal ), whilst keeping sight of God’s favour in [the accomplishment of] all acts. 9 The 
wretched person, on the other hand, is the one who makes himself, his states ( ahwdl ) and his 
deeds beautiful [in his eyes], to the point where he becomes proud of them, and then claims 
[responsibility for] them himself. His disgrace will ruin him one day if it does not ruin him 
in the present. See how God spoke of Korah with His words: I have been given it [this wealth] 
because of knowledge I possess, that is, merit (fadl ). 10 This was because he was the most learned 
among them with regard to the Torah. He claimed merit for himself and so God made the earth 
beneath him swallow him up. This is the outer meaning [of the verse]. But just how many a 
person has sunk low through vices ( ashrdr ), whilst being quite unaware of [what he is doing]. 
Sinking low [through] vices means a person’s being deprived of [divine] protection (Hsma) and 
being left to his own power ( hawl ) and strength ( quwwa ), so that his tongue is loosened and 
he starts to utter great claims. It also means he will be blind to God’s favour, and fail to show 
gratitude for what he has been given. At this point it will be time for [his] demise. 


5 A similar saying is to be found in TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 4, p. 186. See above Tustaris commentary on 16:55 
regarding the avoidance of excess. 

6 Ibn Abi c Asim al-Dahhak al-Shaybani, Kitab al-Zuhd (Cairo, 1988), p. 228; but it is found attributed to al-Ta 3 ! in Isfahan!, 
Hilyat al-awliyd \ vol. 7, p. 353. 

7 These are words spoken to Korah by his people. The context is given in note 10 below. 

8 The addition is made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 83b, F638, f. 38b and F3488, f. 257a, all of which have: wa 
futiha lahu before sabil. 

9 On Tustaris doctrine that acts of obedience are only accomplished through Gods favour and assistance, while disobedi- 
ence is through God’s withdrawing His protection, see IC, p. 2, and Tustaris commentary on 2:3, 2:30, 2:235, 3:160, 18:17 
and 18:39. See also IT, pp. xxxiii-xxxv. 

10 Korah (Ar. Qarun) is mentioned in both the Bible and the Qur'an. According to the Qur'anic account [28:76-82], he 
lived at the time of Moses, but oppressed Moses’ people. He owned such wealth that even the keys to his treasures would 
have weighed down a whole company of strong men. However, when he was advised not to gloat over his wealth, but 
to think of the life to come and to do good to others, he made the claim that his wealth was given to him on account of 
the knowledge he possessed. Eventually, God caused the earth to swallow up both him and his house. 


148 


29 Al- c Ankabut 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[29:1, 2] AlifLam Mim 0 Do people suppose they will he left to say, ‘We believe,’ without being 
put to the test? 

He said: 

That is, without their being beset by affliction ( bald "). Truly affliction is a doorway between 
the people of gnosis ( ahl al-mdrifa ) and God, Mighty and Majestic is He. It has been related 
that the angels say, ‘O Lord! Your disbelieving servant has had [the goods of] this world made 
available to him in abundance, while affliction has been kept away from him.’ 1 Then He says 
to the angels, ‘Reveal his [the unbelieving servants] punishment to them [the other angels?].’ 
When they see it they say, ‘What he gets from the world is not a blessing for him.’ Then they say, 
‘O Lord! You keep the world away from Your believing servant and expose him to affliction!’ 2 
And He says to the angels, ‘Reveal to the others his [the believing servant’s] reward.’ When they 
see his reward they say, ‘Whatever he suffers in this world will not harm him.’ 3 4 
He [Tustari] said: 

Let your prayer {salat) be forbearance ( sabr ) in the face of suffering (basd), your fasting 
( sawm ) be to observe silence ( samt ), and your charity ( sadaqa ) be to refrain from doing harm 
[to anybody] {kaffal-adha). Furthermore, forbearance in [times of] well-being ( c dfiya ) is more 
difficult than forbearance in [times of] affliction {bald').* 

This saying is also related from him: 

Seeking safety {saldma) is not exposing yourself to affliction. 

His words: 

[29:17] ...So seek your provision from God... 

He said: 

Seek provision {rizq) through trust {tawakkul) not through earning {kasb), for seeking provi- 
sion through earning is the way of the generality ( c awamm ). 5 

It was related of Jesus son of Mary S&S I that he said, ‘Truly I say to you, neither do you want the 
world, nor the Hereafter.’ They said, ‘Please explain that to us, O prophet of God, for we previ- 
ously thought that we only wanted one of them.’ He said, ‘If you obey the Lord of the world, in 
whose hands are the keys to its coffers, He will give it to you. Likewise, if you obey the Lord of 
the Hereafter He will give it to you. However, neither do you want the latter nor the former.’ 6 

1 The use of the passive here is according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 84a, F638 f. 39a and F3488, f. 257b. 

2 The MS F638, f. 39a only maintains the passive construction here. 

3 Ibn Abl Shayba, al-Musannaf, vol. 7, p. 166; Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliyd\ vol. 4, pp. 118, and 123. 

4 Sabr here has the meaning of patient perseverance. 

5 See the commentary on 25:58 above for a discussion of tawakkul versus kasb, the former being the state of being ( hal ) 
of the Prophet, and the latter being his Sunna. 

6 This principle, namely that the true mystic and lover of God should desire neither this world nor the Hereafter, but only 
God Himself, was taken up and developed in later Sufism. Indeed, the person who obeyed God for the sake of salvation 
from the Fire and the rewards of Paradise was known in Persian mysticism as a ‘mercenary’ ( muzdur ). See Keeler, Sufi 


149 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[29:21] He chastises whomever He wishes... 

by [abandoning him] to follow innovation, and has mercy on whomever He wishes by [assisting 
him] in adherence to the Sunna. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[29:43] And such similitudes We strike for [ the sake of] mankind, but none understands them 
except those who know. 

He said: 

The similitudes which God strikes for man are available for everyone [to see] , since the evidences 
of [His] omnipotence ( qudra ) are [in themselves] proof of the [existence of] the Omnipotent. 
However, it is only His elect ( khdssa ) who fully understand them. Thus, knowledge is rare and 
understanding granted by God (fiqh c an Allah) even rarer. 7 Whoever becomes acquainted with 
the knowledge r of Him through the knowledge [acquired by] 1 his natural self ( bi- c ilm nafsihi 
al-tabfiyya), will experience Him in a delusory manner. 8 But regarding the one who becomes 
acquainted with [God] through the knowledge of God, God knows what He willed from him 
for Himself (fa’Lldhu c arafa muradahu minhu li-nafsihi). 9 The creature has no knowledge of 
God beyond that. This allusion ( ishara ) [to similitudes in the verse] was made due to the fact 
that their hearts are truly far away from knowledge [of God]. Take note of r his words, JS ‘If you 
knew God with a true knowledge of Him ( haqq mdrifatihi ) then the mountain would cease to 
exist by [the power of] your supplication’ 1 . 10 
His words: 

[29:45] .. .Truly prayer guards against lewd acts and indecency... 

This verse refers to the adornment ( tazyin ) that [is derived from] shunning all lewd acts and 
indecency, and this [is attained] through one thing, namely, sincerity ( ikhlds ) within the prayer 
(salat). Every prayer that does not restrain shameful and unjust deeds, and is devoid of the 
adornment of shunning of these deeds, is defective, and it is incumbent upon the person [in 
this case] to purify it [his prayer]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[29:56] ...My earth is [indeed] vast, so worship Me and Me [alone]. 

He said: 

This means: If transgressions and innovations are the practice in a particular land, then leave 
it for a land of obedient servants. Indeed the Prophet M said: ‘He who flees for [the sake of] 
his religion at a time when the community is in a state of corruption, will receive the reward 
of seventy martyrs in the cause of God, Mighty and Majestic is He.’ 


Hermeneutics, pp. 167-8, 194. The tradition is cited in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 6, pp. 57-8. 

7 lit. even more of a special privilege’, i.e. for a select few ( akhass ). 

8 Several corrections have been made on the basis of the MSS (Z515, f. 84b, F638, f. 39a; F3488, f. 258a), which ha ve: fa-man 
c arafa Hlmahu bi- c ilm nafsihi al-tabiHyya instead of fa-man c arafa c ilm nafsihi al-tabiHyya in the published edition. Also all 
MSS have wahman instead of wahm, and MS F638 has wajadahu which would then make sense of the accusative case 
for wahm. If, on the other hand, we follow the published edition and read it as: Him nafsihi al-tabiHyya wahda then it 
would be followed by the verb and translated as: according to the knowledge [acquired by] his natural self alone, has 
deluded [himself]’. 

9 In other words, the extent of knowledge that is revealed by God is a matter of that which He has destined for that mystic. 

10 This hadith, present in all three MSS (Z515, f. 84b, F638, f. 39a; F3488, f. 258a), is absent from the published edition. The 
hadith is listed in Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 2, p. 103. 


150 


30 Al-Rum 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[30:4] ... To God belongs the command, before and after... 

This means, before everything else [existed], and after everything else [ceases to exist]. This is 
because He is the One who initiates [everything] ( al-Mubdi ’) and brings it back [to its source] 

( al-Mu c id ). His arrangement ( tadbir ) of [the affairs of] His creatures was antecedent [to them] 

( sabaqa ), for He knows them in their origin (asl) and what will proceed from them (farf. 

His words: 

[30:40] God is the One who created you, then provided for you... 

He said: 

The most excellent provision (rizq) is tranquil reliance ( sukun ) upon the Provider ( al-Raziq ). 
His words: 

[30:40] ...then makes you die. 

That is. He will destroy you. 

He said: 

Indeed, God, Exalted is He, has created good and evil and established the command and pro- 
hibition. He has made us worship Him through the good and linked that to success ( tawftq ), 
while He has forbidden us from evil and linked the perpetration of it to the relinquishing of 
[His] protection (Hsrna), and abandonment ( khidhlan ) [by Him], All of these are of His crea- 
tion. Whoever is successful in [doing] good has a duty to show gratitude ( shukr ), and whoever 
has been left to do evil must r repent and 11 cry out for Gods help, Mighty and Majestic is He. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[30:41] Corruption has appeared on land and sea... 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, has made the land a similitude of the bodily members and the sea a simili- 
tude of the heart. It [the sea, and therefore the heart] is more widely beneficial ( aiamm nafan), 
and much more dangerous ( akthar khataran). 1 2 This is the inner meaning of the verse — do 
you not see that the heart ( qalb ) was thus named due to its tendency to turn ( taqallub ), and 
due to the extent of its depth ( ghawr ). This is why the Prophet it said to Abu al-Darda 
‘Overhaul the ship, for the sea is deep.’ In other words, ‘Make afresh your intention ( niya ) for 
God, Exalted is He, from your heart, for the sea is deep .’ 3 Therefore [with this renewed inten- 
tion (niya)], when the trafficking ( mu c dmala ) goes on in the hearts, which [as we have seen] 
are [like] seas, the self will leave its place at the centre, and the bodily members will come to 


1 This word tawba appears in all three MSS: Z515, f. 85a, F638, f. 39b and F3488, f. 259a. 

2 That is, translating wa huwa (for the sea or the heart) according to MSS F638, f. 39b and F3488, f. 259a, instead of wa 
hum in the published edition and MS Z515, f. 85a. 

3 According to the Firdaws bi-ma'thur al-khitab, of Shirawayh b. Shardar al-Daylaml (Beirut, 1986), vol. 5, p. 339, this 
hadith was addressed by the Prophet to Abu Dharr al-Ghifari. 


151 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


rest. 4 Thereafter, with each day, the possessor of [the sea of the heart] will find himself closer 
to its ultimate depth and further away from his self until he reaches r Him 1 . 5 

He was asked about the meaning of the [saying of] the Prophet St, ‘Whoever humbles himself before 
a person of wealth will lose two thirds of his religion.’ 6 He replied: 

The heart has three stations: the principal part (jumhur ) of the heart; the station of the tongue 
in relationship to the heart, and the station of the bodily members in relationship to the heart. 
His words, ‘has lost two thirds of his religion means that two out of the three were involved, 
the tongue and the rest of the bodily members, but the principal part of the heart remained 
in its place, for no one can reach that because it is the seat of his faith ( Iman ) within the heart. 
Then he said: 

Truly, the heart is delicate ( raqlq ) and everything affects it, so guard over it carefully, and fear 
God with it. 

He was asked, ‘When does the heart become purified of all corruption (fasad ) ?’ He replied: 

It does not become purified until it abandons all conjecture ( zann ) and scheming ( hiyal ) — for 
it is as if scheming in the eyes of your Lord is [as bad] as a major sin to our eyes. Indeed, the 
Prophet M said: ‘Righteousness (birr ) 7 is what causes an expansion within your breast, and 
iniquity ( ithm ) is what sows intrigue ( hdka ) in your breast, even if those who are authorised 
to give out legal rulings provide you with [legal] fatwa upon fatwa [to the contrary] , 8 
Then he [Sahl] said: 

If the heart is perturbed, that will be evidence ( hujja ) against you. 

His words: 

[30:50] So behold the effects of God’s mercy... 

In its outer meaning it refers to the rain, and in its inner meaning it alludes to the life of hearts 
through remembrance ( dhikr ). But God, Transcendent and Exalted is He, knows best. 



4 The meaning of this passage is not entirely clear, but following Tustaris comparison of the heart to a sea, with its ten- 
dency to turn, along with its depth, we have assumed that the renewed [spiritual] intention, alluded to in the saying of 
the Prophet, eventually causes the [lower] self to leave its domination of the heart (its being at the centre), after which 
neither the self nor the limbs will disturb the heart, and it come to will reach its utmost depths, ultimately attaining 
God. 

5 All three MSS (Z515, f. 85a, F638, f. 39b and F3488, f. 259a) have ilayhi following yasilu. 

6 Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 6, p. 298. 

7 Not al-kablra as in the published edition. 

8 Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 4, p. 194; Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 1, p. 239. 


152 


3i Luqman 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[31:6] But among people there is he who purchases idle talk, without knowledge, to mislead... 

He said: 

This refers to disputing in [matters of] religion and plunging into falsehood ( bdtil ). 

His words: 

[31:15] ...and follow the way of him who returns to Me [in penitence] .. . 

This means that anyone who has not been guided to the path [that leads] to God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He, should follow in the footsteps of the virtuous ( sdlihun ), so that the blessing 
( baraka ) of following them may lead him to the path of God. Do you not see how the dog of 
the Companions of the Cave benefitted by following those virtuous ones, to the point that God, 
Exalted is He, repeatedly mentioned it in a good light ? 1 Indeed, the Prophet said in a hadith 
in this regard, ‘Anyone who keeps their company will not be among the wretched .’ 2 
His words: 

[31:19] ...for the most abominable of all voices is the braying of an ass. 

r Sufyan al-Thawrl said, ‘The voice [s] of all things glorify [God] except for the voice of the ass 
(himar)fi for it screeches on account of seeing Satan, and this is why God, Exalted is He, calls 
it abominable ( munkar ). 

[31:20] ...and He has showered His favours upon you, [both] outwardly and inwardly... 

Outwardly it refers to the love of the virtuous and inwardly it refers to the heart’s tranquil 
repose ( sukun ) in God, Exalted is He. 

His words: 

[31:22] And whoever surrenders his purpose to God and does good (muhsin)... 

He said: 

[That is,] whoever purifies ( akhlasa ) his religion for God, Mighty and Majestic is He , 4 and 
accomplishes well the propriety ( adab ) of sincerity ( ikhlds ) [has certainly grasped] the firmest 
handhold, this being the Sunna. 

His words: 

[31:18] Do not turn your cheek disdainfully from people... 

That is, ‘Do not turn your back on one who seeks from you guidance on the path to Us. Acquaint 
them of My grace and goodness towards them.’ 


1 See Sura 18 (al-Kahf) w. 18 and 22. 

2 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-DaSvat’; Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Dhikr wal-du c a 3 wa 1 -tawba’. 

3 The section in brackets is added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 85b-86a, F638, f. 40a and MS F3488, f. 259b and 
F638 has tasbih whereas the other two MSS have yusabbihu. 

4 As stated before, akhlasa has the meaning of making ones religion solely for God, freeing it for Him alone, and of mak- 
ing it pure and sincere for His sake, as is found in the verbal noun derived from it, ikhlds. See IT, pp. lvi-lvii. 


153 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words: 

[31:34] ...No soul knows what it will reap tomorrow... 

That is, [no soul knows] what [counts] for and against it in the preordainment of the unseen 
( maqdur al-ghayb). So, be wary of [what has been preordained] by upholding His remembrance 
and crying out to Him for help, until He takes it upon Himself to take care of your affair, 5 just 
as He has said: God erases and confirms whatever He will. [13:39] 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[31:34] ...And no soul knows in what land it will die... 

He said: 

[It does not know] in what state ( hukm ) 6 it will be when it dies: [eternal] bliss ( sa'ada ) or 
wretchedness ( shaqdwa ). This is why the Messenger M said: ‘Do not be deceived by your great 
[accumulation of] works, for works are [judged] according to the last ones.’ 7 He also used to say, 
‘O Protector of Islam and its people! Hold me fast to 8 Islam so that I meet You in Islam’. 9 And 
he would say, ‘O Turner of hearts and eyes, make my heart firm[ly rooted] in Your religion’, 10 
despite the fact that God had secured for him his end. 

In actual fact, he said this by way of instruction (ta'dib), so that they might follow his example, 
make known their poverty and need for God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and give up their 
reliance on being secure from His ruse (makr). It was for this reason that Abraham §80 said, 
‘ Preserve me and my sons from idolatry [14:35], and Joseph said, ‘ Let me die in submission to 
You, and join me to the righteous’ [12:101] . This was by way of disclaiming all power ( hawl ) and 
strength ( quwwa ) and showing neediness for Him. Likewise, God has said, 'were it not for your 
supplications’ [25:77], 11 that is, [were it not for your] dissociating yourselves from everything 
besides Me, verbally ( qawlan ). And He said: O mankind! You are the ones who are in need of 
God [35:15], Mighty and Majestic is He. 



5 The MSS (Z515, f. 86a, F638, f. 40a and F3488, f. 260a) all have sha'nikum instead of sha'nihim, which agrees with the 
2nd person plural of the verb used earlier. 

6 Or ‘in what decreed state. 

7 Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 5, p. 335; Mundhirl, al-Targhib wal-tarhib, vol. 4, p. 48. 

8 Correcting thabbitnl in the published edition to massikni as is written in all three MSS: Z515, f. 86a; F638, f. 40a and 
F3488, f. 260a. 

9 TabaranI, al-Mu c jam al-awsat , vol. 1, p. 206; HaythamI, Majma c al-zawa'id, vol. 10, p. 136. 

10 Tirmidhi, Sunan, ‘Kitab al-Qadar and ‘Kitab al-DaSvat’; Haythami, Majma c al-zawa'id, vol. 6, p. 325 and vol. 7, p. 210. 

11 The words in context are as follows: Say [Muhammad], ‘My Lord would not be concerned with you were it not for your 
supplications. 


154 


32 Al-Sajda 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 32 : 5 ] He directs the command from the heaven to the earth... 

He said: 

He reveals to His servants from His knowledge 1 that which is a means of guidance ( huda ) 
and salvation ( najdt ) for them. The person who is content with the destined provision (rizq 
al-qada ") resulting from Gods management [of things] ( tadbir ) for him, will have the evil of 
his own devising ( tadbir ) disposed of and removed from him. Thus [God] will have returned 
him to a state of contentment ( rida ) with the divine decree ( qada f, and rectitude ( istiqdma ) 
in the face of the unfolding course of what is destined for him. [Such people] are among those 
who are brought into proximity [with Him] ( muqarrabun ). Truly, God, Exalted is He, created 
people without any veil, and then made their devising [for themselves] ( tadbir ) into their veil . 2 3 4 5 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 32 : 13 ] If it had been Our will, We would have given every soul its [means to] guidance... 

He said: 

If it had been Our will, We would have brought to fulfilment all that the people of truth call 
for, and invalidated the arguments of the people of falsehood ( mubtalun ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 32 : 15 ] Only those believe in Our signs, who, when they are reminded of them, fall down in prostra- 
tion... 

He said: 

The servant will not experience the joy of faith until his knowledge vanquishes his ignorance, 
r his [awareness of] the Hereafter dominates 1 his heart, his compassion r rules over his anger, 
and mercy is upon his heart . 13 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 32 : 16 ] Their sides withdraw from their beds... 

Verily, God, Exalted is He, bestowed on a people a gift ( hiba ), which is that He brought them 
close to Him to call upon Him [in intimate proximity] ( munajatihi ). Then he made them the 
people who are a means ( wasila ) and connection ( sila ) [to] Him , 4 and then He praised them 
Tor this , 15 as a manifestation of [His] generosity , 6 in that He granted them success in what He 
assisted them in doing. So He said, Their sides withdraw from their beds. 

1 That is translating Hlmihi according to all three MSS (Z515, f. 86b, F638, f. 40a and F3488, f. 260b) instead of amrihi in 
the published edition. 

2 The saying is also cited in MakkI, Qut al-quliib, vol. 2, p. 9. 

3 The additions are made on the basis of all three MSS (Z515, f. 86b, F638, f. 40a and F3488, f. 261a), which have: wa yakunu 
al-ghalib c ala qalbihi c akhiratuhu and taghallaba rahmatuhu sakhtahu wa yakunu c ala qalbihi al-rahma. 

4 Perhaps what is meant are people who, through their spiritual qualities, act as agents of God in the creation, and help 
to connect people with Him. We shall see an example of this described later in the commentary on 57:20. 

5 Added on the basis of all three MSS: MSS Z515, f. 87b, F638, f. 40a and F3488, f. 260b. 

6 Translating izharan li-karamihi according to MSS Z515, f. 87a and F3488, f. 260b, or izharan li-karamatihi according to 


155 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 32 : 16 ] ...[while] they supplicate their Lord in fear and in hope... 

He said: 

That is, in fear of being separated ( hijran ) from Him, and in the hope of meeting (liqa’) Him. 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[ 32 : 17 ] No person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden [in reserve] for them ... * 7 8 
He said: 

Their eyes r delight n at the outward and inward realities that they witness, which are revealed 
to them in the way of knowledge ( c ulum) ls of unveiling ( mukashafa ). So they behold them 
and hold on to them such that their eyes delight and their hearts find tranquil repose in them. 
Others, however are unaware of what is hidden [in reserve] for them. But God, Glorified and 
Exalted is He, knows best. 



F638, f. 40a, instead of izhar al-karam according to the published edition. 

7 Among the rewards of Paradise. 

8 Both additions have been made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 87a, F638 f. 41a and F3488, f. 261a. 


156 


33 Al-Ahzab 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[33:4] God has not placed two hearts inside any man... 

He said: 

The one who has directed himself to God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and is intent upon ( qasdan ) 
[Him], [does not] avert his gaze ( iltifdt ) [from Him]. For whoever pays attention to anything 
other than God is not truly intent upon his Lord. Indeed God, Exalted is He, says, God has not 
placed two hearts inside any man... 

It has been said: 

[That is, he does not have] one heart (qalb) with which he approaches God, and another heart 
with which he manages the affairs of this world. [On the other hand], the intellect (]aql) does 
have two natures (; taVan)-. a nature which is orientated towards this world, and a nature which is 
orientated towards the Hereafter. The nature which is orientated to the Hereafter is in coalition 
(. muTalij) with the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh), whereas [the intellect’s] worldly-orientated nature 
is in coalition with the lustful self ( nafs shahwdniyya). It was due to this that the Prophet M 
[prayed], ‘Do not leave me to my self for the blinking of an eye .’ 1 2 For truly the servant, r as long 
as he is occupied with God, will be veiled from himself, and 12 as long as he is occupied with 
himself will be veiled from God, Mighty and Majestic is He. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[33:6] The Prophet is closer to the believers than their [own] souls ... 3 
He said: 

Whoever does not see himself [or his soul] as belonging to the Messenger H and does not see 
the patronage ( wilaya ) of the Messenger it in every situation, has in no way tasted the sweet- 
ness of his Sunna . 4 This is because the Prophet M is the closest to the believers, and the Prophet 
says, ‘None of you believes until I am dearer to him than his soul, his wealth, his children and 
everyone else .’ 5 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[33:8] so that He may question the truthful (sadiqin) about their veracity. And he has prepared for 
those who disbelieve a painful chastisement . 6 


1 Bayhaqi, Sunan, vol. 6, pp. 147 and 167; Haythami, Majma c al-zawa'id, vol. 10, pp. 117, 137 and 181; Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, 
vol. 5, p. 42. 

2 The section in brackets is added on the basis of MS, F638, f. 40b. However, the first part of the saying differs in MSS 
Z515, f. 87a and F3488, f. 260b, which have: ‘Truly the servant who does not cease to be occupied with God ( ma zala 
mushtaghilan biLlah ), will be veiled from himself’ 

3 Or the verse could be translated, The Prophet has a greater right [or greater authority, awla] over the believers than they 
have over their own selves. 

4 See above, IC, p. 2, n. 5 and p. 3, n. 14 regarding the different meanings of wilaya. 

5 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Iman; Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Iman. 

6 This verse relates part of the covenant that was taken by God from the prophets at the same time that He took the 
covenant from the seed of all the children of Adam. On the Covenant of Alast see above Tustaris commentary on 7:172 
and IT, pp. xxxi-xxxii and xxxv-xxxvi. 


157 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


c Abd al- Wahid b. Zayd said: 

Veracity ( sidq ) is being faithful ( wafd ') to God in your act[s]. 

Sahl was asked about veracity and said: 

Veracity is fear concerning [our] end ( khatima ), and patience ( sabr ) is the proof [lit. witness 
(shahid)] of veracity. Truly, veracity is hard for the veracious ( siddiqun ), sincerity ( ikhlas ) is 
hard for the sincere ( mukhlisun ), and repentance ( tawba ) is hard for the repentant (tadbun), 
for these three 7 require [extraordinary] exertion of the spirit ( badhl al-ruh). 9, 

Ahmad b. Matta was asked about its meaning [sidq] and said: 

It is that there no longer remains a share for a person’s lower self. 

Sahl said: 

No one will get a whiff of the fragrance of veracity as long as he panders to his lower self or to 
others. Rather, veracity is that a person feels in his innermost secret ( sirr ) that there is no one 
on the face of the earth from whom God has demanded servanthood besides him. Furthermore, 
his hope is his fear, 9 and his fear is [of] his demise ( intiqal ). 10 Then when God, Exalted is He, 
sees them [the veracious] in this state, He takes upon himself the care of their affairs ( tawalld 
umurahum ) and suffices for them ( kafahum ), and every hair on their bodies speaks [as one] 
with God ( mda’Llah ) in gnosis ( mdrifa ). Thereafter God, Exalted is He, says to them on the 
Day of Judgement, ‘For whom did you work, and what did you desire?’ They will reply, ‘We 
worked for You, and You alone did we desire.’ He will say to them, ‘You have spoken the truth.’ 
And by His Might, His words of testimony affirming their veracity are a greater source of joy 
to them than the bliss of Paradise. 

Ahmad b. Matta was asked about the meaning of his [Sahl’s] saying, that the hope of veracity is his 
fear, and that his fear is [of] his demise (intiqal). He said: 

It is because veracity (sidq) is their hope and what they seek, but they fear that they are not 
veracious in their quest (talab), so that God will not accept it from them. He has said regarding 
this: and [those] who give what they give while their hearts tremble [with awe] [23:60], meaning 
that they are in trepidation while doing acts of obedience, for fear that they will suffer rejection. 
His words: 

[33:35] For Muslim men and women... 

He said: 

Faith (Imdn) is superior to surrender ( isldm ), but mindfulness of God (taqwd) within faith is 
superior to faith. Certainty (yaqin) within mindfulness of God is superior to mindfulness of God, 
but veracity (sidq) within certainty is superior to certainty. Truly, you have taken a firm hold on 
the lowest (adna) [of these], 11 so you must not by any means let that escape from you. 

He also said: 

Faith in God is established (thabit) in the heart, and certainty is firmly rooted (rasikh) [in it] 
through veracity (sidq). Veracity of the eye is refraining from looking at all that is forbidden. 
Veracity of the tongue is relinquishing engagement in that which is meaningless. Veracity of 
the hand is not extending it to seize what is forbidden. Veracity of the feet is refraining from 


7 That is translating hadhihil-thalatha according to MS Z515, f. 87b, F638, f. 40b and F3488, f. 262a, instead of al-talbiya 
in the published edition. 

8 Reading badl as badhl, while MS F638, f. 40b has nuzul al-ruh, which also might be translated here as ‘surrender of the 
spirit’. 

9 That is, presumably, that his hope is accompanied by fear. This is explained by Ahmad b. Matta below. 

10 That is, perhaps his fear is concerned with his state of veracity at his passing, which would be in accordance with his 
statement shortly before, that ‘Veracity is fear concerning [our] end ( khatima)’. Another possibility might be: ‘his fear 
is of veracity’s disappearance from him, or his moving away from ( intiqal ) veracity’. The meaning of intiqaluhu does 
not become clear from Ahmad b. Matta’s explanation either. 

11 i.e. Islam. MS 3488, f. 262b only has awla instead of adna. 


158 


33 Al-Ahzab 


walking in quest of indecent acts. The truth of veracity ( haqiqat al-sidq) in r the heart 112 is that 
it constantly reflects on the past and refrains from regarding what is to come. Verily, God, 
Exalted is He, has granted the veracious ( siddiqun ) so much knowledge that if they spoke of 
it, the ocean would dry up with their speech . 13 They are hidden and do not appear in public 
before people, except when it is [absolutely] necessary for them, and until a virtuous [servant] 

( salih ) appears, at which point they make themselves known, and teach the learned ( c ulamcb ) 
from their different branches of knowledge. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[33:35] ...and the men who remember God often and the women who remember God often... 

The one who observes true remembrance ( al-dhakir c alal-haqiqa ) is he who is aware that God 
witnesses him. He perceives Him with his heart as being close to him, and therefore feels shame 
before Him. Then he gives Him priority over himself and over everything else in every situation. 
On another occasion Sahl was asked, ‘What is remembrance ( dhikr )?’ He said, ‘Obedience (fd c a).’ 
Then someone asked, ‘What is obedience?’ He replied, ‘Sincerity ( ikhlas) .’ Then he was asked, ‘What 
is sincerity?’ and he answered, ‘Witnessing ( mushahada ).’ Someone then asked, ‘What is witness- 
ing?’ He replied, ‘Servanthood ( c ubudiyya ).’ Then they asked: ‘What is servanthood?’ He answered, 
‘Contentment ( rida ).’ Then they asked, ‘What is contentment?’ He replied, ‘Neediness ( iftiqdr ).’ He 
was asked: ‘What is neediness?’ and he said, ‘It is humble entreaty ( tadarru c ) and seeking refuge 
[in Him] ( iltija ’). Submit! Submit, until death!’ 

Ibn Salim said: 

Remembrance is of three kinds: remembrance of the tongue, and that is a good deed ( hasana ) 
which is rewarded tenfold; remembrance of the heart, and that is a good deed which is rewarded 
seven-hundred fold; and a form of remembrance whose reward is beyond being weighed, and 
that is being filled with love [of God] ( mahabba ). 

His words: 

[33:38] ...and God’s commandment is an inexorable destiny, 

That is, it is known before it befalls you. Is anyone able to avoid what is determined [for him]? 
TJmar 4 ® said after he was stabbed, ‘. . .And God’s commandment is an inexorable destiny. Indeed, 
the Messenger of God M informed me that they would do this to me.’ It was related from 
al-Dahhak that two angels descend from heaven, one of them carrying a scroll with writing on 
it and the other one carrying a scroll without any writing on it. [The latter] records the servant’s 
actions and what he leaves behind. When he [the latter] intends to ascend again, he says to his 
companion [carrying the scroll with writing on it], ‘Show me [what is in your scroll]’ and he 
shows him, [and he sees] that there are no mistakes, not even as to a letter . 14 
His words: 

[33:71] He will rectify your deeds for you and forgive you your sins... 

He said: 

When God gives someone success in enabling him to perform good deeds, this is a sign that 
he is forgiven, for God, Exalted is He, has said: He will rectify your deeds for you and forgive 
you your sins. But God, Transcendent and Exalted is He, knows best. 


12 Added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 88a, F638, f. 41a and F3488, f. 262b. 

13 Sic in all the MSS as well as the published edition. Perhaps it means that the ocean would dry up in shame at the depth 
and breadth of their speech, an analogous metaphor to that of the sun and moon hiding their faces before the luminous 
beauty of the beloved, which one finds in Persian poetry. There may also be an allusion here to Sura 18 (al-Kahf) verse 
109: Say: ‘If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, the ocean would he dried up before the words of my Lord were 
exhausted .’ 

14 The point being made here is that there is no contradiction between what God has predestined and what we do. 


159 


34 Saba D 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[34:39] 1 Say, ‘My Lord extends provision to whomever He wills of His servants, and restricts it for 
him...’ 

He said: 

Provision ( rizq ) is of two kinds: a provision that is remembrance [providing nourishment] 
for the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh), the intellect [aql) and the heart ( qalb ), which resembles the 
sustenance of the angels — their very life ( ‘aysh ) is in remembrance, and were this to be with- 
held from them they would perish. The other kind of provision is that which is eaten, drunk 
and so on for the benefit of one’s [physical] nature (tabf. It is this kind which falls under what 
is permitted ( haldl ) or prohibited ( haram ). The legitimate is that which God, Exalted is He, 
has provided for us, and commanded us to partake of. The prohibited, on the other hand, is 
what God, Exalted is He, has provided but forbidden, and this is the portion of the Fire. And 
I do not know anything more difficult than averting the harm [of others] (kaff al-adha) and 
adhering to what is permitted. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[34:37] Nor is it your wealth or children that will bring you nearer to Us in proximity (zulfa)... 1 2 
He said: 

Al-zulfd is proximity to God, Exalted is He. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[34:39] ‘...and whatever thing you may expend [for good] He will replace it...’ 

He said: 

There will be a replacement ( khalaf) of what has been spent, along with the intimacy ( uns ) of 
living with God ( c aysh ma‘a’Llah), Exalted is He, and delighting in that. 

His words: 

[34:46] Say, ‘I will give you [one] admonition: that you stand before God, in twos and singly...’ 

He said: 

The reckoning on the Day of Resurrection is [an appraisal of] four things: veracity ( sidq ) in 
speech, sincerity ( ikhlds ) in actions, rectitude ( istiqdma ) with God in all affairs, and heedful- 
ness ( muraqaba ) of God in every situation. But, God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 


1 The order of the verses in the commentary is thus in the MSS. 

2 Verses 36-9 comprise things which the Prophet is commanded to say to the disbelievers, particularly those who have been 
corrupted by their wealth, and assume that their having wealth and children will protect them from punishment. 


160 


35 Al-Mala D ika (or Fatir) 1 * 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[35:6] ...He [Satan] only summons his adherents... 

That is, Satan summons to him those who obey him among the people of whims ( ahwd 3 ), 
innovations ( bidd ) and abberations ( dalalat ), along with those who listen to such things from 
one who propounds them. 

His words: 

[35:10] ...To Him ascends the good word, and as for righteous conduct, He raises it up. . . 

He said: 

Its outer meaning is supplication (duV) and charity ( sadaqa ), and its inner meaning is remem- 
brance ( dhikr ), while acting upon what you know and advancing through [following] the 
Sunna. He raises it up means, He makes it reach [Him] due to the presence within it of sincerity 
towards God, Exalted is He. 

His words: 

[35:15] O mankind! It is you who stand in need of God... 

He said: 

That is, ‘You [depend] upon Him in your very selves, for truly when God created all creatures 
He imposed upon His servants neediness (faqr) for Him, while He is the Rich and Independent 
( al-Ghani ) . Furthermore, whoever claims to be wealthy has been veiled from God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He. On the other hand, whoever shows his need for God, will find that He joins 
his need to His wealth. The servant should feel the need for Him in his innermost secret ( sirr ), 
cutting himself off from all other than Him, so that his servanthood ( c ubudiyya ) becomes pure 
( mahda ); for pure servanthood is self-abasement ( dhull ) and humble submission (khuduf. 

He was asked, ‘How does one show one’s need for Him?’ He said: 

The neediness takes three [forms]: [the servants’] showing [awareness] of having been needy 
from pre-eternity (faqruhum al-qadim); their showing need in their state (faqr halihim), and 
their showing neediness through the death of the self to its [own] devising and managing [of 
things] (tadbir). Whoever does not come up to [these standards] is false in his claim to neediness. 
He also said: 

The truly needful [person] (al-faqir al-sddiq ) is the one who does not ask [for things except 
from God] (Id yas'alu), does not turn down [that which has been granted to him by God] (la 
yaruddu ), and does not hold back [from giving in the path of God when asked] (la yahbisu ). 
‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Az!z 4s said that the friends of God can be described [as having] three charac- 
teristics [lit. things] : confidence ( thiqa) in God, Exalted is He, in everything; showing neediness 
for Him (faqr ilayhi ) in everything; and taking refuge in Him (ruju c ilayhi ) from everything. 


1 The sura bears the title al-Mala’ika in all three MSS. The printed edition has the alternative title: Fatir. 


l6l 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words: 

[35:32] Then We gave the Book as inheritance to those of Our servants whom We chose. [Yet among 
them is the one who has wronged himself, the one who is in the middle position and the one who 
is foremost in good deeds...] 
c Umar b. Wasil stated that he heard heard Sahl say: 

The one who is foremost (sabiq) is the one who is learned; one who is in the middle position 
(muqtasid) is the one who is learning ( mutdallim ), and the one who has wronged himself (zalim) 
is the one who is ignorant (jdhil). 

He also said: 

The one who is foremost is he who is only preoccupied with his Hereafter; the one who is in 
the middle position is the one who is preoccupied with his Hereafter and his life in this world; 
but the wrongdoer is he who is preoccupied only with his worldly life, without any concern 
for his Hereafter. Hasan al-Basrl (may God have mercy on him) said the foremost are those 
whose good deeds outweigh their misdeeds, those who are in the middle position are the ones 
whose good deeds and misdeeds balance each other, while the wrongdoers are those whose 
misdeeds outweigh their good deeds. 

His words: 

[35:34] .Praise be to God, who has removed from us (all) sorrow... 

That is, the sorrow of being cut off [from God] ( huzn al-qatVa). . . . Truly our Lord is Forgiving, 
Appreciative, that is, He forgives abundant sins, and shows appreciation for insignificant works. 



162 


36 Ya Sin 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[36:11] You can only warn him who follows the Remembrance, and fears the Compassionate One 

in secret. . . 

He said: 

The one who worships God in his innermost secret (sirr), will be endowed with certainty ( yaqin ) 
by God. The one who worships God with a truthful tongue, will find his heart ascends to the 
very Throne. 1 The one who worships God with equity ( insdf ), 2 will have the heavens and the 
earth weigh [in his favour]. 3 

He was asked, ‘What is equity ( insdf) [in worship]?’ He replied: 

It is that none of your bodily members moves unless it be for God. Furthermore, when you 
ask Him for the next day’s provision ( rizq ), your equity has left you, for the heart cannot bear 
two concerns ( hamman ). 4 Equity between you and other people is when you take from them 
with the attitude that you are receiving a favour. However, if you demand to be treated justly, 
that means you are not being equitable. 5 

It was related of John the Baptist and Jesus S&S that they went out walking, and John bumped 
into a woman, upon which Jesus said to him, ‘O son of my maternal aunt! Today you have 
committed a grave sin for which I do not think God will forgive you.’ He responded, ‘And what 
is that?’ He said, ‘You bumped into a woman.’ He said, ‘By God, I did not notice her.’ Jesus said 
‘Glory be to God! Your body is with me but where is your heart?’ He said, ‘It is attached to the 
Throne, and if my heart were to find rest with the angel Gabriel S 80 for just a blinking of the 
eye, I would consider myself as not having known God, Mighty and Majestic is He.’ 

His words: 

[36:22] ‘And why should I not worship the One who created Me ...’ 6 

He [Sahl] was asked about the best form of worship and replied: 

It is sincerity ( ikhlas ), in accordance with His words, And they were only commanded to worship 
God alone, devoting religion purely to Him (mukhlislna lahu al-din) [98:5]. No one’s actions 
become truly sincere, nor his worship whole, as long as he tries to evade four things: hunger 
(Ju c ), nakedness ( c ury ), poverty ( faqr ) and abasement ( dhilla ). Indeed, God, Exalted is He, made 
his servants worship Him through the following three: the intellect ( c aql), the spirit ( ruh ) and 
[physical] strength ( quwwa ). If he is afraid of [losing] two of these, the loss of intellect and the 

1 lit. ‘his heart will not stop until it reaches the Throne.’ 

2 Insdf c an have the meaning of ‘doing justice to something’ or giving it its due’. 

3 lit. ‘in his scales’. That is, they will weigh in his favour on Judgement Day. 

4 In other words, if your mind is on your next day’s provision, it is not on God. 

5 This is because if someone receives something from another person, they should have the awareness that it has been 
destined for them by God. But if they demand something from others, then they are not having true trust in what He 
has planned for them. 

6 These words are said by a man unnamed in the Qur'an who came from the furthest part of the city [36:20]. His warning 
to people that they should follow the messengers runs from w. 20-25 of Surat Ya Sin. Tabari identifies him as Habib b. 
Marl, or according to one tradition, as Habib b. Zayd b. c Asim. In the Tafsir al-Jalalayn he is said to have been a carpenter. 


163 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


loss of the spirit, then he should take pains to perform well [the acts of worship]. As for [the 
loss of] physical strength, then there is no taking pains to perform them or learn them well, 
even if he prays seated . 7 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[36:66] If it had been Our will, We could have taken away their sight... 

He said: 

This means: ‘If We so willed We could gouge out the eyes of their hearts by which they perceived 
disbelief ( kufr ) and its path, so that they could only perceive Islam and nothing else.’ . . . but how 
would they have seen ? the path of Islam if He did not do that. 

His words: 

[36:69] ...It is just a Reminder and a Qur’an that makes things clear, 

He said: 

It is a reminder ( dhikr ) and a [source of] contemplation ( tafakkur ). But God, Glorified and 
Exalted is He, knows best. 



7 The only apparent difference to note is that MS F638 has takallafa lahuma instead of takallafa laha. Perhaps what is 
meant here is that a person can address any deficit or shortcomings in his intellectual and spiritual life through worship, 
while in the case of a loss of physical strength, it may not be possible to regain it. 


164 


37 Al-Saffat 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[37:84] when he came to his Lord with a sound heart (qalb sallm). 1 

That is, in a state of self- surrender ( mustaslim ), having committed his affairs to his Lord, resort- 
ing [to Him] through his innermost secret ( sirr ) in every situation. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[37:88, 89] And he cast a glance at the stars (nujum) •$> And he said, ‘Indeed I feel sick.’ 

He said: 

It is narrated from Muhammad b. Sawwar from c Amr b. al-A la who said, ‘Its meaning is that 
he looked at the plants ( nabat ), as in His words, and the plants (najm) and trees (shajar) bow in 
prostration [55:6], intending by the word najm, plants which have no trunk, 2 and by the word 
shajar, those which have a trunk.’ 3 
His words: 

[37:107] Then We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice . 4 5 
He said: 

When Abraham H S® loved his son with a natural human [love], God’s favour (fad l) and pro- 
tection ( Hsrna ) corrected him, such that He commanded him to sacrifice his son, though the 
intention [of this command] was not the realisation of the sacrifice, but rather the aim was to 
purge his innermost secret (sirr) from the love of other than Him by the most effective means. 
Then when He had purified his innermost secret for Himself, so that he desisted from following 
his natural habit (jadat al-taV), He ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice. 

His words: 

[37:106] Truly this was indeed a clear test. 

He said: 

That is, a trial of mercy (bald’ al-rahma). s Do you not see how God sent him [Abraham] in a 
state of contentment (rida)? 6 


1 The verse is speaking about Abraham. 

2 The word najm (plur. nujum ) can mean star’ while the word najm is a collective noun for ‘herbs’ or ‘plants’. 

3 This is an exoteric interpretation, through which Muhammad b. Sawwar possibly intends to make it clear that Abraham 
was not worshipping the stars, as did his ancestors, while other commentators point out that Abraham was deliberately 
giving his father and others the impression that he still depended on the stars. See, for example, the Tafslr al-Jalalayn 
on this verse. See also p. 66, n. 12 above. 

4 This a reference to the ram which God commanded should be sacrificed in place of Abraham’s son, once he (Abraham) 
had proved his readiness to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God. 

5 The reason for its being called a trial of mercy is explained in the paragraph which follows in Tustari’ s commentary. 

6 That is, the prophet Abraham manifested the quality of contented acceptance of whatever trials God had decreed for 
him. See above Tustari’s commentary on 15:97, 98. 


165 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

We have heard that the following is written in the Psalms, ‘I did not decree anything for a believer 
which he either liked or detested without its being good for him.’ And it is related that God, 
Exalted is He, revealed the following to Abraham 8&SS, ‘There is no one [whose provision in 
this world] I have increased, but that I have decreased by the same proportion [his provision] 
in the Hereafter, and that goes for you also, My true friend.’ 7 
Abu Ya c qub al-Susi 8 relates, ‘Afaqir came to us while we were in Arrajan and Sahl b. c Abd Allah hap- 
pened to be there also on that day. 9 He [th efaqir] said, “You are the people of [God’s] special care 
( ahl al-Hndya). Indeed, a severe trial and affliction ( mihna ) has descended upon me.” Sahl said to 
him, “In the registry of afflictions, it descended only after you exposed yourself to this matter. 10 So 
what is it?” He replied, “Something of this world opened itself up to me, so I took possession of it 
to the exclusion of my family and thus lost my faith and my [spiritual] state ( hdl ).” Sahl said, “What 
do you say concerning this, O Abu Ya c qub?” I replied, “The affliction was more intense [for him] 
regarding [the loss of] his state than regarding [the loss of] his faith.” Sahl responded, “A person 
like you would say that O Abu Ya c qub.”’ n 
Sahl was asked about the [spiritual] state (Ml). He replied: 

The state of remembrance ( dhikr ) [at the level of] knowledge (Him) is tranquil repose [in God] 
(sukun), and the state of remembrance [at the level of] the intellect ( c aql ) is profound peace 
(tuma’mna). The state of mindfulness of God (taqwa) [at the level of] Islam [consists of observ- 
ing] the limits [of the law] (hudud), and the state of mindfulness of God [at the level of] faith 
(iman) is profound peace (tuma'nina)} 1 

If the servant has a state, and an affliction visits him, and he then asks for relief through a state 
lower than the one he is in, that counts as a defilement (hadath) from him. 

He was asked, ‘Why is that?’, and he said, ‘It is like someone who is hungry asking for satiation, 
because the rank of the hungry is higher.’ 13 
His words: 

[37:143] And had he not been one of those who glorify God, u 
He said: 

That is, among those who upheld the rights (huquq) of God, Exalted is He, before affliction 
( bald 3 ) came. But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 


7 Compare the commentary on 29:1, 2 above, regarding suffering and the reward of the Hereafter. 

8 Abu Ya c qub Yusuf b. Hamdan al-Susi (d. end third/ninth century). Bowering ( Mystical Vision , p. 80) understands Susi 
to be among the visitors to Tustarl who benefited from his teaching for a short time. 

9 Arrajan is an ancient town built by the Sassanians, which is now a ruin. It is situated in Khuzistan, southern Iran, close 
to Behbahan. 

10 That is exposing himself to the matter of the affliction. 

11 This discussion is related in Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma\ p. 193. See Bowering, Mystical Vision , pp. 78-9. Bowering understands 
from this encounter that both Tustari and Abu Ya c qub are in agreement in their disapproval of the faqtrs being more 
distressed about the loss of his state than the loss of his faith. 

12 On the significance of the levels of islam and iman , as well as ihsan see above Tustari s commentary on 14:25. 

13 The state of hunger is higher in the spiritual ranks than that of satiation, so if the aspiring mystic who is hungry asks for 
satiation, then that is tantamount to ‘defilement’. On the virtue of hunger, see above Tustari s commentary on 7:31 and 
IT, p. xvi, and p. xxi. 

14 This is part of a brief account of the story of Jonah in the whale [37:139-48] . The following verse completes the conditional 
sentence, so the two verses read as follows: And had he not been one of those who glorify God, -0 he would have tarried 
in its belly until the Day when they are raised [37:143-4]. 


166 


38 Sad 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[38:1] Sad. By the Qur'an endowed with the Remembrance! 

He said: 

That is, endowed with healing power ( al-sha'n al-shafi) and sufficient admonition ( al-wa c z al-kdfi). 
His words: 

[38:6] . . . ‘Walk away! And stand by (isbiru) your gods ’. . . 1 
He said: 

This is the reprehensible form of forbearance ( sabr ), 2 for which God has reprimanded the 
disbelievers. 

Indeed, I heard him [Sahl] say: 

Forbearance (sabr) is on four levels: forbearance in obedience (tcfa), forbearance with suffer- 
ing ( alam ), forbearance with pain ( ta'allum ), and lastly, the reprehensible kind of forbearance, 
which is that of persistence (iqdma) in opposing [the truth] ( mukhalafa ). 3 
His words: 

[38:20] And We strengthened his kingdom, and gave him wisdom and decisive speech (fasl al- 

khitab). 4 

He said: 

God only gave him [David] this when he asked Him to raise his rank to the rank enjoyed by 
Ishmael and Isaac. He said, ‘You are not on that level, O David. However, I am giving you a 
high rank for your wisdom, and articulation in speech (fdsila )’ 5 — this being the saying: amma 
ba‘d (to proceed), which he was the first to say. Quss b. SaTda was the one who followed the 
precedent of saying this [ amma ba c d \. 6 It has also been said decisive speech (fasl al-khitab) is 
lucidity ( baydn ) and faith ( iman ). 7 


1 These words were said by a group of Quraysh, who used to go round discouraging people from listening to the words 
of the Prophet. 

2 Note that the word used in the Qur'an for to stand by’ is from the same root, s-b-r , as the word for patience, endurance, 
forbearance. 

3 See also the discussion of forbearance in Tustari’s commentary on 29:1, 2. 

4 Verses 17-26 of this sura relate a story of the prophet David, and are said to allude to his acquisition of another man’s 
wife to add to the numerous wives he already had. David realised that this had been a test from God and repented (v. 
24). God then forgave him (v. 25), but with an admonition (v. 26). See above p. 49, n. 47 for a brief account of this story. 

5 We have used the word ‘articulation’ here for fdsila, because it has the dual meaning in English of something which 
both links two things while keeping them separate, as in a joint — the same meaning attaches to the Arabic root fasala, 
from which is derived mafsal, meaning both a joint, and something which is clearly enunciated in terms of language. 

6 The expression amma ba c d, which is given as an example of fdsila, serves the purpose of maintaining continuity of 
discourse, while also making a clear division of one topic from another. 

7 That is translating fasl al-khitab al-bayan wal-iman, according to all three MSS, Z515, f. 91b, F638, f. 41b and F3488, f. 
267a, instead of fasl al-iman li-khitab al-bayan. 


167 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words: 

[38:20] We strengthened his kingdom... 

He said: 

That is, with justice ( c adl) and with virtuous ministers to rule over it with goodness, just as the 
Messenger said, ‘Truly, if God, Exalted is He, wills good for a ruler, He grants him a truthful 
minister ( wazir saduq) who reminds him when he forgets, and assists him when he remembers.’ 
His words: 

[38:24] ...He fell down on his knees and repented. 

He said: 

Turning often to God in contrition ( inaba ) is returning from heedlessness to remembrance 
with a broken heart ( inkisdr al-qalb ) and the anticipation of [His] loathing ( intizdr al-maqt). 
His words: 

[38:26] ...and do not follow [your] desire, lest it then lead you astray from the way of God... 

He said: 

That is, the darkness of desire which obscures the lights of the intuition of the self ( dhihn al- 
nafs), the spirit ( ruh ), the understanding of the intellect (fahm al-aql ), and the discernment of 
the heart (fitnat al-qalb). 8 Similarly, the Prophet M said: ‘Truly, [when followed], desire ( hawd ) 
and lust ( shahwa ) overwhelm the intellect, knowledge ,’ 9 and lucidity (bay an), due to the pre- 
eternal ordainment of God, Exalted is He . 10 
His words: 

[38:32] (He [Solomon] said) ‘Lo! I have preferred the love of the good things [of this world] over 
the remembrance of my Lord...’ 

He said: 

[Over] the afternoon prayer and its [prescribed] time . * 11 
His words: 

[38:35] ...‘O my Lord! Forgive me, and grant me a kingdom which shall not belong to anyone after 
me...’ 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, inspired Solomon to ask for a kingdom which would not be attainable 
by anyone after him, that He might shatter thereby the tyrants, the unbelievers, those who 
transgress against their Lord, and those among jinn and men who claim to possess power by 
themselves . 12 Thus, the question was posed by Solomon its®, in accordance with God’s choice 
for him, and not following his own choice for himself . 13 
His words: 

[38:46] Assuredly We purified them with a pure [thought]: the remembrance of the Abode.' 4 


8 For a discussion of these terms used by Tustari to explain the inner make-up of the human being see IT, pp. xxxviiiff. 

9 The first part of this hadith was quoted earlier in Tustari s commentary on 2:30, and is cited as being among the sayings 
of al-Harith b. Asad in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliyd\ vol. 10, p. 88. 

10 This is according to MS F638, f. 41b, which has li-sabiq al-taqdir , while Z515, f. 91b, F3488, f. 267a and the published 
edition have li-sabiq al-qudra min Allah ta c ala. However in a later citation of this same tradition in the commentary on 
91:4 Z515 has li-sabiq al-qadar. 

11 This is also the reason given by various authorities in Tabaris commentary on this verse in the Jam? al-bayan. 

12 Solomon was granted dominion over jinn, men, birds and the wind. For the story of Solomon see Tabaris History, vol. 
3, Children of Israel, trans. Brinner, pp. i52ff.; Thafabi, Ara'is al-majalis, trans. Brinner, pp. 49off. 

13 Because he was inspired by God to request it. 

14 i.e. the Hereafter. This verse refers to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who are mentioned in the previous verse. 


168 


38 Sad 


He said: 

He purified Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac from the remembrance ( dhikr ) of this world through 
a remembrance of Him, purely for [His sake] ( khalisatan ), not for the attainment of recom- 
pense ijaza 1 ). Neither did they witness themselves in it [their remembrance]; rather, they 
remembered Him through Him and for Him. Furthermore, the one who remembers God 
through God ( bi’Llah ) is not like the one who remembers God through the remembrance of 
God ( bi-dhikri’Llah ). But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



169 


39 Al-Zumar 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[39:7] ■■■If you give thanks He will approve... 

He said: 

Gratitude ( shukr ) begins with obedience ( td‘a ) and ends with the vision of Paradise ( ru’yat 
al-janna)} 

His words: 

[39 : 9] ■■■Say: ‘Are those who know equal with those who do not know?...’ 

He said: 

Knowledge [comes from] the Book and emulation (iqtidd’) [of the Prophet’s example], 
not [from] reprehensible suggestions ( khawdtir madhmuma). Any knowledge that the 
servant does not seek from the position of emulating [the Prophets example] will be a 
curse ( wabdl ) to him because he will make false claims on account of it . 1 2 
His words: 

[39:11] Say: ‘Indeed I have been commanded to worship God devoting [ my] religion purely to Him.’ 
He said: 

Sincerity ( ikhlds ) is responding ( ijdba ), and whoever has no response has no sincerity . 3 
And he said: 

The astute (akyds) reflected upon sincerity and did not find anything except the following: that 
everything the servant does, whether done in secret or openly, is for God alone, Mighty and 
Majestic is He, and is mingled neither with desire nor with the self. 

His words: 

[39:17] Those who steer clear of [the worship of] false deities... 

He said: 

Evil ( tdghut ) 4 is the world, its root is ignorance ( jahl ), its branch is what is eaten and drunk, 
its adornment is hubris ( tafdkhur ), its fruits are transgressions ( ma‘dsi ) and [in] its scales [of 
recompense] ( mizdn ) are severity (qaswa) and punishment ( c uquba ). 5 
His words: 

[39:38] [Say] ‘...If God should desire some harm to befall me, would they [be able] to remove the 
harm imposed by Him?’... 

1 By which Tustari may mean the vision of God in Paradise. See above the commentary on 2:214 and 14:7, and Tustaris 
words on gratitude vis-a-vis acting upon ones knowledge, which could also be seen as obedience. 

2 For Tustaris teachings regarding emulation (iqtidd 2 ) see IT, pp. liii-liv. 

3 With this elliptical comment Tustari is indicating that all that is required for sincerity is to devote our religion purely 
to God, which is the only worthy response to the divine command. What is implied by the [true] response is explained 
in the statement that follows. 

4 Tdghut is a word for idols or Satan, but by extension it has come to mean evil. 

5 That is, according to MSS Z515, f. 91b, F3488, f. 268a and the published edition, whereas MSF638, f. 43a, has mirath 
instead of mizdn, which might be translated as ‘legacy’. 


170 


39 Al-Zumar 


He said: 

That is, ‘If God removed from me protection against acts of opposition ( mukhdlafdt ), or the 
knowledge ( malrifa ) of acts of conformity ( muwdfaqdt ), could anyone bring them back to me? 
Or if He should desire some mercy for me, that is, in granting me forbearance ( sabr ) in avoid- 
ing what He has forbidden, and assistance (mcfuna) in carrying out what He has commanded, 
and in granting me full reliance ( ittikdl ) on Him at the end [of my life], [could they withhold 
His mercy?]. 

And he said: 

Mercy ( rahma ) is well-being ( c afiya ) in one’s religion, in this world and in the Hereafter. In 
other words, it is [God’s] taking charge and taking care ( tawalli ) [of His creatures] from the 
beginning to the end. 

His words: 

[39:41] Truly, We have revealed the Book to you for [the sake of] mankind with the Truth... 

That is, He revealed it for them so that they may be guided by the Truth to the Truth ( bi’l-haqq 
ild’l-haqq), 6 and that they may find illumination through Its [His] lights. 

His words: 

[39:42] God takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that have not died, in their sleep. . . 

He said: 

When God takes the souls (anfus) to Himself, He extracts the luminous spirit ( ruh nuri) 
from the subtle substance ( latif) of the dense natural self (nafs al-taV al-kathif). The taking 
up [of souls] ( al-tawaffi ) in God’s Book is of three kinds: the first is death ( mawt ), the second, 
sleep ( nawm ), and the third, ascension {raff. Death is as we have just mentioned. Sleep is as 
[described] in His words: and those that have not died, in their sleep, which means that He also 
takes unto Himself ( yatawaffa ) those who have not died, in their sleep {manamf. [God also] 
said, It is He who takes you at night [6:60] meaning, in sleep. Ascension {raff is mentioned 
in relation to Jesus SSSI, to whom God said, ‘O Jesus, I am gathering you and raising you to Me’ 
[3:55]. Thus when a person dies. He [God] removes ( yanzfu ) from him the subtle substance 
{latif) of the luminous spiritual self {nafs al-ruh al-nuri) [separating it] from the subtle substance 
( latif) of the dense natural self {nafs al-tab c al-kathif), and by this [luminous spiritual self] he 
comprehends things {yalqilu al-ashydf, and is given the vision {rufa) in the heavenly kingdom 
{malakut). 7 8 However, when a person sleeps, He extracts from him the subtle substance of the 
dense natural self, not the subtle substance of the luminous spiritual self. Therefore, when the 
sleeping person awakens, he recovers a subtle breath {nafas latif) from the subtle substance of 
the spiritual self, for if this were to part from him, it would leave him without motion {haraka), 
and lifeless {mayyit). Thus, the dense natural self has a subtle substance {latifa) and likewise 
the spiritual self has a subtle substance {latifa)} The life of the subtle substance of the natural 
self is by virtue of the light of the subtle substance of the spiritual self {nur latif nafs al-ruh). 
The spiritual life of the subtle substance of the spiritual self {haydt ruh latif nafs al-ruh) 9 is by 
virtue of remembrance [of God] {dhikr), just as He has said: rather they are living with their 
Lord, provided for [by Him] [3:169], that is, they are sustained by remembrance, due to what 
they attained through the subtle luminous self. 10 The life of the dense nature {tab 7 kathif) is 


6 Or it might be translated as ‘by God to God’ since the name al-Haqq (‘the Absolute Truth’) has often been used to refer 
to God. 

7 For a discussion of this passage in the context of Tustarl’s ‘spiritual psychology’, see IT, pp. xxxix-xl. 

8 All three MSS (Z515, f. 93a, F638, f. 43b and F3488, f. 269a) have latifa here instead of latif in this sentence, though 
Bowering ( Mystical Vision , p. 245) has in any case read them as latif as in the rest of the passage. 

9 Or more precisely we might translate this as ‘the life of the spirit of the subtle substance of the spiritual self’. MS F638, f. 
43b, however, has hayat ruh nafs al-ruh without the word latif which would read literally as ‘the life of the spirit of the 
spiritual self’. 

10 In its outward meaning, this verse [3:169] describes the situation of those who became martyrs in the Battle of Uhud. 


171 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


through eating, drinking and [physical] enjoyment ( tamattu c ). 

Whoever cannot reconcile these two opposites, by which I mean, the natural self and the spir- 
itual self, so that the two together are sustained by remembrance ( dhikr ) and by the endeavour 
[to accomplish] remembrance, * 11 is not a mystic ( c drif) in reality. 
c Umar b. Wasil said, ‘The grammarian al-Mubarrad used to say that the spirit ( ruh ) and the soul [or 
self, nafs\ are two interconnected things; the one cannot subsist without the other.’ He continued, 
‘I mentioned this to Sahl and he said’: 

He is mistaken. The spirit subsists by His grace ( bi-lutfihi ) within its own essence ( bi-dhatihi ), 
independent from the dense natural self. Do you not see that God, Exalted is He, addressed 
everyone while still in a molecular form, 12 by virtue of the existence of the spiritual self, the 
understanding of the intellect, the intuition of the heart, and the presence of a subtle kind of 
knowledge, without the presence of [mans] dense nature (tab c kathlf). 

His words: 

[39:43] Or have they taken intercessors besides God?... 

He said: 

Have they followed the path of innovation in religion as a way of drawing closer to God through 
their religion, on the basis that this would benefit them? 

His words: 

[39:45] And when God is mentioned alone, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter 
shrink [with aversion]... 
r He said: 

That is, 113 their hearts disavow the gifts of God that they possess (Hndaha). 

His words: 

[ 39 : 53 ] Say [ that God declares]: ‘O My servants who have been prodigal against their souls! Do not 
despair of God’s mercy...’ 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, has given his servants respite, out of His bounty, up to their last breath, 
and He says to them, ‘Do not despair of My mercy; even if you came back to Me in your last 
breath, I would receive you.’ 

He said: 

This verse is the most far reaching in conveying the compassion ( ishfdq ) shown by God, Exalted 
is He, to His servants; because, in accordance with His knowledge, He does not deprive them 
of that which He bestows on others, rather He showers mercy upon them to the point that He 
admits them to the very essence of [His] generosity ( c ayn al-karam), by virtue of [His] eternal 
remembrance of them. 14 


There were those who had stayed behind, who urged their brothers not to go, saying: ‘ Had they obeyed us, they would 
not have been slain [3:168], at which the Prophet was commanded to give the reply, in the same verse, Then avert death 
from yourselves, if you speak the truth, which is an ironic answer, indicating that they have, in any case, no power to 
avert death when it is decreed for them. There follows the admonition: Count not those who are slain in battle as dead, 
but rather living with their Lord, provided for [by Him] [3:169]. As is often the case in his esoteric interpretations, Tustari 
has widened the application of the meaning of the verse here so that it refers to the spiritual life of the subtle substance 
of the spiritual self. 

11 lit. so that the sustenance of the two together is remembrance and the endeavour ( sa% ) for remembrance.’ 

12 An allusion to the Covenant of Alast, for which see the commentary on 7:172, and IT, pp. xxxi-xxxii and xxxv-xxxvi. 
In connection with this passage see also IT, p. xl, n. 156 and p. xliv, n. 184. 

13 The addition was made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 93b, F638, f. 43b and F3488, f. 269b. 

14 This may mean that He has remembered them in this very verse, which is the word of God and in its essential form, 
eternal ( qadim ). 


172 


39 Al-Zumar 


It was related of the angel Gabriel SB! that he heard Abraham S&SJ pray, ‘O You who are Most 
Generous in pardoning!’ Then Gabriel said to him, ‘O Abraham! Do you know what the 
generosity of His pardon (afw) [implies]?’ He answered, ‘No, O Gabriel.’ He continued, ‘It is 
that when He pardons a misdeed, He converts it into a good deed .’ 15 
Then Sahl said: 

Witness this of me: it is part of my religion that I do not disown the sinners among the nation 
of Muhammad M, nor the wicked, the murderers, the adulterers or the thieves, for truly, the 
extent of the generosity, bounty, and beneficence that God, Exalted is He, shows, especially to 
the nation of Muhammad S, cannot be fathomed. 

His words: 

[39:54] ‘And turn [penitently] to your Lord, and submit to Him ....’ 16 

That is, ‘Return to Him through supplication (duV), and by humbly beseeching ( tadarru ‘ ) 
and petitioning ( mas’ala ) [Him] ’; 'and submit to Him’. That is, ‘Commit all your affairs to Him’. 
His words: 

[39:56] Lest any soul should say, ‘Woe is me for what I have neglected of [my] duty to God!...’ 

He said: 

[That is, lest any soul should say], ‘I was preoccupied by the present world (‘ajil al-dunya ), the 
pleasure of passion ( ladhdhat al-hawa) and with going the way of the lower self. I neglected 
[my] duty to God, that is, with regard to God’s person (dhat Allah), [and I neglected] being 
intent upon Him ( qasd ilayhi), and dependent upon Him ( Ltimad c alayhi ), on account of my 
neglecting to observe His rights ( huquq ) and adhere to His service ( khidma ).’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[39:63] To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth... 

That is, in His hand are the keys to hearts. He gives success to whomever He wills, so that they 
obey him and serve Him with sincerity, and He turns away from His door whomever He wills. 
His words: 

[39:67] And they do not esteem God as He should be esteemed... 

That is, they did not come to know Him as He deserves to be known ( haqq ma‘rifatihi), [either] 
in the fundamental^ of His knowledge] (as/), 17 or in its branches] (farf . 18 
His words: 

[39:68] ...when whoever is in the heavens and earth will swoon ... 19 
He said: 

The inner [meaning] of the verse is that [this will happen] when the angels are commanded 
to desist from remembrance, and not due to the Trumpet’s blast, nor Azra il’s removal [of the 
souls of all living creatures]. 20 This is because He gave them life through His remembrance just 


15 Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 5, p. 389. The tradition appears in Makki, Qut al-qulub, vol. 1, pp. 3 76-7, where it is the 
Prophet Muhammad instead of Abraham who is spoken to by Gabriel. 

16 This is a further exhortation that the Prophet has been commanded to give to those mentioned in the previous verse. 

17 i.e. knowledge of Him. 

18 The fundamentals of religion ( usul al-din) and its branches (furu c ) being the two main categories of religious sciences: 
theology and substantive law, that is, the positive rules of law, including worship ( Hbada ) and transactions ( mu c amalat ). 

19 That is, on the Day of Resurrection, when the Trumpet will be blown for the first time. The latter part of this same verse 
states that when it is blown again they will rise up, looking on. 

20 The complete verse reads: The Trumpet will be sounded when whoever is in the heavens and earth will swoon. According 
to tradition, on the last day Israfil will blow the Trumpet and the Angel of Death, AzraTl, will capture the souls of all 
living creatures, including the other angels and himself. What Tustari is saying here is that the real cause of the end is 
not the Trumpet or the Angel of Death, but Gods commandment that the angels should stop praising and remembering 
Him. 


173 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


as He gave the children of Adam life through their breathing. 21 

God, Exalted is He, has said: They glorify [Him] night and day and do not falter [21:20] But when 
He withholds remembrance from them they perish. 

His words: 

[39:69] And the earth will shine with the light of its Lord... 

He said: 

The hearts of the believers will shine on the Day of Resurrection with the light of [their realisa- 
tion] of the oneness of their Lord, 22 and their following of the Sunna of their Prophet H. 

His words: 

[39:74] [And they will say,] ‘Praise be to God who has fulfilled His promise to Us...’ 

He said: 

Indeed, their praise ( hamd ) in Paradise does not take the form of an act of worship ( talabbud ), 
since they are exempted from that, just as they are exempted from the fear ( khawf) related to 
the [need for] earning ( kasb ) and the [possibility] of alienation (qaf). What remains, though, 
is the [reverential] fear [that accompanies] the exaltation (khawf al-ijlal) and magnifying 
(; talzim ) of God, Mighty and Majestic is He. So their praise is simply a delight for the natural 
self (nafs al-tab c ), the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh), the intellect ( c aql ) r and the heart ( qalb j 1 . 23 But 
God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



21 See the discussion above in Tustaris commentary on 39:42. 

22 That is according to MS F638, f. 43b, which has: bi-nur tawhid sayyidihim , while the published edition and MSS Z515, f. 
94b and F3488, f. 270b have bi-tawhid sayyidihim which might be translated as ‘they shine or are radiant due to [their 
knowledge] of the unity of their Master. 

23 Added on the basis of all three MSS Z515, f. 94b, F638, f. 44a and F3488, f. 270b. 


174 


40 Al-Mu 3 min (or Ghafir) 1 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[40:1, 2] Ha Mim. The revelation of the Book is from God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing, 

He said: 

That is, the Living ( al-Hayy ), the King ( al-Malik ), 2 who sent down the Book to you. He is 
r GodV who turns thereby [by the Revelation] the hearts of mystics ( ‘drifun ). He is Almighty 
( al-Aziz ) beyond the grasp of created beings, the All-Knowing ( al-Alim ) with regard to what 
He has produced and ordained. 

[40:3] Forgiver of sins... 

That is, He conceals the sins of whomever He will; and Accepter of repentance from the one who 
repents to Him and devotes his actions purely to Him with knowledge (Him); One of [infinite] 
bounty; Possessed of a richness [which makes Him] Independent from all ( al-Ghani‘an al-kull). 
[40:4] None dispute the signs of God ... 4 

That is, [they do not dispute] concerning His essence ( dhat ), or omnipotence ( qudra ), or 
concerning the Qur'an, or the Sunna, out of some whim of the lower self. Just as He said, And 
argued with falsehood [40:5], meaning: following [their] own whim ( hawd ) without referring 
to guidance from God, and just as He also said, Why do you then dispute concerning that of 
which you have no knowledge? [3:66] — [None dispute]... save those who disbelieve and create 
innovations that do not belong to the truth. 

His words: 

[40:7] ...So forgive those who repent... 

He said: 

They are those who repent from heedlessness, find intimacy in remembrance and follow the 
Sunna of Mustafa M. 5 
His words: 

[40:10] Indeed [to] those who disbelieve it will be proclaimed, ‘Surely God’s abhorrence is greater 
than your abhorrence of yourselves. . .’ 


1 The published edition gives Ghafir as the title to this sura. However, all three MSS use the title al-MuTnin. 

2 Tustari has here interpreted the letters ha and mim of Ha Mim as al-Hayy and al-Malik, respectively. Sometimes, as in 
this case, these ‘disconnected letters’ with which some of the suras begin, are interpreted individually as representing 
something for which they stand as the initial letter. But it is also the custom to interpret the combination of letters, as 
was seen above in the commentary on Alif, Lam, Mim, at the beginning of Surat al-Baqara. On the ‘disconnected letters’ 
see above, Tustari’s commentary on 2:1, and p. 12, n. 2. 

3 Present in all three MSS: Z515, f. 94b, F638, f. 44a and F3488, f. 270b. 

4 The verse continues: except those who disbelieve, so do not be deceived by their bustle in the towns. The next verse gives 
examples of those, beginning with the people of Noah, who sought to dispute the truth brought by the messengers. 

5 Mustafa is one of the honorific titles of the Prophet, meaning ‘the Chosen One [of God].’ 


175 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

Abhorrence ( maqt ) is the most extreme form of alienation (ib‘ad) from God, Mighty and Majestic 
is He. [Furthermore], when the disbelievers enter the Fire they abhor themselves. However, 
God’s abhorrence of their deeds is even severer [for them] than their entry into the Fire. 

His words: 

[40:15] The Exalter of rank, Lord of the Throne, He casts the Spirit of His command... 

That is. He is the Raiser of ranks, and He elevates the ranks of whomever He wills by [grant- 
ing him] gnosis ( ma c rifa ) of Him. He casts the Spirit of His command... That is. He sends the 
Revelation from the heavens to the earth by His command. 

His words: 

[40:60] And your Lord has said, ‘Call on Me and I will respond to you...’ 

He said: 

[It is a requirement of] chivalry ( muruwwa ), that supplication (du‘a?) should be answered, 
without doubt. It [supplication] is a quiver of arrows . 6 A believer does not supplicate God, 
Exalted is He, without His either answering him by granting him exactly what he asked for, 
even though that servant may not be aware of it, or repelling thereby something evil from him, 
or recording for him a good deed because of it. 

He was asked, ‘What is the meaning of the saying: “Supplication is the best of deeds?”’ He replied: 
It is because it [supplication] is a way of humbly imploring [God] ( tadarruf , taking refuge 
( iltijcT ) [in Him], and showing one’s poverty (faqr) and neediness (fdqa ) [for Him], 

His words: 

[40:81] And He shows you His signs; then which of the signs of God do you reject? 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, has made His signs ( dydt ) 7 manifest to His friends ( awliyaj , and He has 
made happy those among His servants who believe in them, [affirming the truth of] their 
charismatic gifts ( karamat ). 8 However, He has made the eyes of the damned blind to seeing 
them, and has turned their hearts away from Him. Whoever denies the charismatic gifts of 
the friends [of God] denies the omnipotence of God, Exalted is He. For the omnipotence [of 
God] manifests [itself] at the hand of the friends [of God] , and they cannot by themselves cause 
their manifestation, in accordance with His words And He shows you His signs; then which of 
the signs of God do you reject? 

His words: 

[40:85] ...[This is] God’s way (sunna) with His slaves, which has its precedent... 

He said: 

[The word] sunna is derived from some of the names of God, Exalted is He: the letter ‘sin stands 
for sana’uhu (His resplendence), the letter ‘nun stands for nuruhu (His light) and ‘ha stands for 
hidayatuhu (His guidance ). 9 His saying: God’s way means: r His ‘primordial nature’ (fitratuhu ) 
upon which He moulds (jabala ) the elite among His servants, out of His guidance for them 1 , 
and thus they are [already disposed towards] the norms ( c ala sunan ) of the clear path to Him . 10 
But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 


6 That is, the arrows will hit their target. 

7 ‘Signs’ in this context represent the miracles that are accorded by God to His friends, or the saints ( awliya 3 ). 

8 The term charismatic gift is used here to translate karama, designating the miracle of a mystic or friend of God, as op- 
posed to mu c jiza, which is applied to the miracles of prophets. On this subject, see above IT, p. xx, n. 52. 

9 The ‘ha here refers to the ta? marbuta at the end of the word sunna for which reason the convention is sometimes to 
write it as sunnah. See below the commentary on 69:1, 2 and p. 244, n. 1. 

10 The addition is made on the basis of all three MSS, Z515, f. 94b, F638, f. 44b and F3488, f. 271b. 


176 


4i Al-Sajda (or Fussilat) 


His saying: 

[41:1] Ha Mlm 

That is, He decreed [everything] upon the Preserved Tablet (lawh mahfuz ), in which was 
inscribed all that exists [and will come into existence] (ka’in). 

His words: 

[41:4] [bearing] good tidings and a warning ... 1 2 
He said: 

Giving the good news of Paradise to those who obey Him and follow what is within it [the 
Book] , and a warning of the Fire for those who disobey Him, turn away from what God intends 
within it, and oppose it. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[41:5] And they say, ‘Our hearts are veiled against that to which you call us...’ 

He said: 

That is, [veiled] with coverings of neglect ( ihmal ), such that they inclined towards lust ( shahwa ) 
and desire ( hawa ), and could not comprehend the summoning ( da'wa ) of God; 'and in our 
ears, [the ears] which are in our hearts, there is a deafness’, that is, deafness to the good, so they 
do not hear the calls ( hawatif) of God; 'And between us and you is a partition, that is, ‘a veil of 
desire and of [our] natural disposition ( jibillat al-tabf, so we do not see you as others see you.’ 
His words: 

[41:24] So if they endure, the Fire will [still] be their abode ... 3 

That is, if they seek release they will not be released, and if they apologise they will not be 
pardoned. 

His words: 

[41:30] Truly, those who say, ‘Our Lord is God.’ And then remain on the straight path... 

He said: 

That is, they do not associate partners along with Him. This is as in the saying narrated from the 
Prophet M> ‘They are my nation and, by the Lord of the Ka c ba, they remained on the straight 
path and did not commit association (shirk) like the Jews and the Christians.’ 4 
TJmar said, ‘They did not evade [the truth] with the evasiveness of foxes’. 5 


1 The MSS have the title al-Sajda. The published edition gives two titles for the sura. 

2 Verses 3 and 4 describe attributes of the Revelation from the Merciful, the Compassionate mentioned in v. 2. 

3 This verse is part of the description (w. 19-24) of what happens to Gods enemies when they are gathered up and sent 
to the Fire, and their unremitting punishment therein. 

4 This tradition is cited in Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Qurtubi, al-Jami c li-ahkam al-Qufan, known as Tafsir al-Qurtubi 
(Beirut, 1985), vol. 15, p. 358. 

5 This saying, presumably of TJmar b. al-Khattab, is cited in the Kitab al-Zuhd wa’l-raqaHq of c Abd Allah Ibn Mubarak 
(Beirut, 1971), p. 110. 


177 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words: 

[41:30] ...the angels descend to them and say, ‘Do not fear nor grieve...’ 

That is, at the time of death. Indeed, the Prophet 18 said, ‘God, Exalted is He, says: “I have never 
hesitated over anything as much as I have hesitated over snatching ( qabd ) the soul ( ruh ) of 
the believer’”, 6 by which He means, ‘The angels never hesitate over anything as much as they 
hesitate over snatching the soul of My believing servant, which they do while giving him good 
tidings ( bashara ) and treating him with honour ( kardma ) saying, “Do not fear for your souls 
and do not grieve about the Day of Gathering’”, just as He has said, The Supreme Terror shall 
not grieve them [21:103]. 

He said: 

[He is] the One who takes you all into His care ( al-mutawalli li-jumlatikum ) 7 8 with [His] good 
pleasure ( rida ), protecting your hearts, and delighting your eyes with the [divine] manifestation 
( tajalli ), in reward for your profession of His oneness and as a favour ( tafaddul ) from your Lord. 
His words: 

[41:33] Who is better in speech than one who summons [others] to God... 

That is, than one who guides [people] to God, His worship and the Sunna of His Messenger^, 
and to the avoidance of all that is forbidden; [and who guides] to perseverance ( idama ) in 
rectitude ( istiqdma ) with God, steadfastness in this for fear of one’s end ( khatima ); and to the 
middle way ( tariqa wusta), s and the straight path (jadda mustaqima), upon which whoever 
travels will be safe, but away from which whoever deviates (ta c adda) will be filled with regret 
( nadam ). 

His words: 

[41:49] Man never wearies of supplicating for good... 

He said: 

He does not weary of remembering His Lord, nor of thanking Him, praising Him, or extolling 
Him. 

His words: 

[41:51] And when We bestow graces upon man he shows disregard and turns away... 

He said: 

That is, [he turns away] from supplication, and from showing gratitude for what God has 
bestowed upon him. He becomes preoccupied with the bounties [themselves] and takes pride 
in that which is not worthy of any pride. 

His words: 

[41:53] We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and in themselves... 

That is, death. 

He said: 

Death has a specific ( khass ) and a general ( c amm ) meaning. 9 The general [meaning of] death is 
the death of the physical body ( khilqa ) and [its] natural form (jibilla ). The specific [meaning] 


6 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Riqaq’; TirmidhI, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 2, p. 232. 

7 The second person plural pronoun in the expression jumlatikum here may be referring back to 21:92, where ummatukum 
is mentioned, i.e. Truly this nation (or religion) of yours (pi.) is one nation, and in his translation of the Qur'an Muham- 
mad Abdel Haleem has understood this as being addressed to the messengers altogether. Or maybe the expression 
simply means all of you. M. Abdel Haleem, trans. Quran (New York, 2008). 

8 The Muslims are described as a midmost nation (umma wasata) in 2:143. According to Tabari, being the ‘middle’ or 
‘midmost’ means their being on the one hand free of extremism ( ghuluww ), and on the other, just (‘ : udul ). 

9 i.e. a meaning that is understood by the elect (khass), that is, an inner meaning, and a meaning more widely understood 
by the generality ( c amm), namely its literal meaning, as is clear by the interpretation that Tustarl presents. Note that in 
the Introduction to the Commentary, p. 2, he stated that the understanding of the inner meanings of the Qur'an are for 


178 


4i Al-Sajda (or Fussilat) 


is the death of the lusts of the lower self ( shahawat al-nafs). 10 But God, Glorified and Exalted 
is He, knows best. 



a select few. 

10 That is, according to MS F638, f. 44b and the published edition. MS Z515, f. 96a and F3488, f. 272b, have shahawat al- 
nufus. 


179 


42 Al-Shura (or Ha MIm c Ayn Sin Qaf) 1 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[42:7] ...Thatyou may warn [the people of ] the Mother of Cities, andthose around it... 

He said: 

In its outward meaning, it [the Mother of Cities] refers to Mecca. In its inner meaning it refers 
to the heart, while those around it refer to the bodily members ( jawdrih ). Therefore warn them 
that they might safeguard their hearts and bodily members from delighting in acts of disobedi- 
ence and following [their] lusts. 

His words: 

[42:7] ...and thatyou may warn [people] about the Day of Gathering. . . 

He said: 

That is, the Day when the inhabitants of the earth will be gathered for His remembrance, just 
as the Hosts of the Heavens are assembled [for His remembrance]. 

His words: 

[42:7] ...[whereupon] some will be in the Garden and some will be in the Blazing Fire. 

He said: 

Whoever plants thorn trees will not reap grapes. So do what you will, for indeed there are just 
two paths, and whichever one of those paths you [choose to] tread, you will end up with its folk. 
His words: 

[42:8] And had God willed, He would have made them one community... 

He said: 

The outer meaning [of the verse] refers to disbelief ( kufr ), 2 and its inner meaning refers to the 
servants [moments of] activity ( harakdt ) and passivity ( sukun ). 3 If God so willed He would 
have placed them all in obedience to Him; but He admits whomever He will into His mercy, that 
is, into His obedience. And the evildoers, who claim to possess the power ( hawl ) and strength 
( quwwa ), have neither guardian nor helper in [their being] contrary ( khilaf) [to the state they 
should be in], that is, they are in a state of passivity (sukun) with regard to [His] command- 
ments ( amr ) and activity with regard to that which is forbidden (nahy). 

His words: 

[42:9] ...He revives the dead... 

In its inner meaning, it refers to the hearts of the people of truth, which He revives through 
remembrance ( dhikr ) and the contemplative witnessing (mushahada) of Him. 

1 The former title is used in the published edition and in Z515, f. 96a and the latter in the two Fatih MSS. 

2 One community here being understood to mean, ‘If God willed He could have made everyone part of a community of 
believers’. The second part of this verses reads: but He admits whomever He will into His mercy, and the evildoers have 
neither guardian nor helper. 

3 In other contexts, we have translated these words as ‘[moments of] activity or stillness’, when, as stated above (p. 66, 
n. 17), it might also be understood to mean every single thing that we do’. However, the translation here of sukun as 
‘passivity’ seems to be required by the context. Relevant to this passage is Tustari’s commentary on 2:30. 


180 


qi Al-Shurd (or Ha Mlm Ayn Sin Qaf) 


He [also] said: 

Souls cannot gain [real] life until they die. 4 5 
His words: 

[ 42 : 13 ] He has prescribed for you as a religion that which he enjoined upon Noah... 

r He said 15 

The first [prophet] to have made it unlawful [to marry] one’s daughters, mothers, and sisters 
was Noah $43. Hence, God has legislated for us [Muslims] the best of the laws that the prophets 
brought. 

His words: 

[ 42 : 13 ] . . . and that which We have revealed to you, and which We enjoined on Abraham and Moses 
and Jesus. . . 

[is] that they should uphold obedience (tcfa) to God, 6 maintain sincerity ( ikhlds ) in that, and 
manifest [goodness in their] moral character ( akhlaq ) and states ( ahwal ). 

His words: 

[ 42 : 20 ] And whoever desires the harvest of the Hereafter, We will enhance for him his harvest... 
He said: 

The harvest of the Hereafter is being satisfied [with one’s lot] ( qancfa ) in this world, and [find- 
ing] contentment ( rida ) in the Hereafter. The harvest of this world is that which is sought other 
than Him. 

He [also] said: 

Another shade of meaning is that he who acts for the sake of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, 
in a state of compliance (ijdban), without seeking a reward, [will find that] everything which is 
sought other than God, Mighty and Majestic is He, becomes diminished in his sight. Thus, he 
desires neither the world, nor Paradise, but desires only the vision ( nazar ) of Him, this being 
the share ( hazz ) of the intuition of the spiritual self ( dhihn nafs al-ruh), the understanding 
of the intellect (fahm al- c aql), and the discernment of the heart (fitnat al-qalb), as when He 
addressed them [before] ( ka-ma khdtabahum); for conformity [lit. imitation, iqtidct'], on that 
occasion was without the presence of the natural self (nafs tabriyya). 7 Notwithstanding the 
fact that the [natural] self receives a share [of the beatific vision in Paradise], like a fragrant 
breeze, due to its being fused with those lights. 8 

[However,] whoever acts for the sake of this world, ...We will give him of it, but in the Here- 
after he will have no portion (nasib), for his Natural 1 self will be occupied with the enjoyment 
(tana^um or naJm) of Paradise, which itself is its share (hazz), [while forgoing] its portion in 
the Hereafter, namely the vision of God for eternity (rufat al-Haqq c alal-abad). 9 


4 This accords with the well-known saying attributed to the Prophet ‘Die before you die’, which is listed in, among other 
sources, Muhammad al-SakhawI, al-Maqasid al-hasanaft bayan kathlr min al-ahadith al-mushtahira c alal-alsina (Beirut, 
1979), P- 436 and Ajluni, Kashf al-khafa\ vol. 2, p. 291. 

5 Added on the basis of Z515, f. 96b, F638, f. 45a and F3488, f. 273a. 

6 MSS Z515, f. 96b and F3488, f. 273a precede this clause with an aqlmu al-din , ‘that they should uphold religion. . 

7 For the natural self was absent at the Covenant of Alast, see above Tustarl s commentary on 7:172 and IT, p. xliv, n. 184. 
By iqtida\ Tustarl is presumably referring to the answer ‘Yes, we testify to Gods question, ‘Am I not your Lord’? 

8 That is, due to its connection to the three modes of mans spiritual being: nafs al-ruh, c aql and qalb. On the joining of 
the natural self and spiritual self in the life of this world see below the commentary on 57:6 and 85:3. See also Bowering, 
Mystical Vision, p. 249. 

9 The published edition has: ‘Whoever acts for the sake of the world’ (man Q amila li-ajlil-dunya), presumably because 
these words are followed by the Qur’anic words: We will give him of it, but in the Hereafter he will have no portion. This is 
what has been translated here. However, all three MSS have the word janna in place of dunya, so that the passage reads: 
‘whoever acts for the sake of Paradise (man c amila li-ajlilfannaY followed by the Qur’anic words: ... We will give him of 
it, but in the Hereafter he will have no portion (nasib). After this, there is a slight variation between the MSS in terms 
of wording, though not a significant one in terms of meaning: Z515, f. 97a and F3488, f. 273b have yashghalu nafsahu 


l8l 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[42:23] ...Say 7 do not ask of you any reward for it, except the affection due to [my] kinsfolk’... 

He said: 

The inner meaning of the verse refers to the link between the Sunna and obligatory acts ifard) . 
It is related regarding this verse that Hasan [al-Basrl] said, ‘Whoever draws closer to God 
through obedience to Him, [will find that] God’s love becomes obligatory [for Him] .’ 10 
His words: 

[42:23] ...If anyone acquires a good deed, We shall enhance for him his goodness... 

He said: 

It refers to the cognisance ( malrifa ) [that a person should have] of his state relating to an act, 
before entering upon it, and after its completion, as to whether it is unhealthy ( saqim ) or 
sound ( sahih ). u 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[42:24] ... For if God so wishes, He can seal your heart... 

He said: 

He could place the seal of longing ( shawq ) and love ( mahabba ) on your hearts, so that you 
would cease to notice people and you would not occupy yourselves with love for them and 
visiting them anymore. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[42:52] ...And verily you guide to a straight path. 

That is, you summon [people] to your Lord with the light of His guidance. 



al-tabFiyya tana'um al-janna, while MS F638, f. 45a has: yashghalu nafsahu al-tabi c iyya bi-na c im al-janna, both of which 
would translate as c he occupies his natural self with the pleasure of Paradise’, as was indicated in the previous paragraph. 
Note the MSS also ha vejanna instead of dunya following the word tana cc um or ncflm, and we have complied with the 
MSS here, because it seems that Tustarl is explaining that those who desired a share in this world (or in Paradise) will 
be denied the nasib, which he interprets here and in the previous passage to be the eternal beatific vision of God. This 
latter will be experienced in the Hereafter by those who desired neither the world nor Paradise. 

10 i.e. it will be incumbent upon God to love him. 

11 On this subject, see above Tustaris commentary on 9:22 and 19:83. 


182 


43 Al-Zukhruf 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[43:1, 2] Ha, Mlm <$■ By the Book that makes things clear. 

That is, within it He clearly distinguished guidance from error, good from evil, and expounded 
the bliss of the fortunate ( su c ada and the misery of the wretched ( ashqiya 3 ). 

[43:4] And it is indeed (with Us) in the Mother of the Book... 

He said: 

This is the Preserved Tablet . 1 
[43:4] ...[and it is] indeed exalted, wise. 

He said: 

That is, it is elevated and dominant over all the other scriptures. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[43:13] that you may sit upon their backs and then remember your Lord’s grace when you are set- 
tled upon them ... 2 
He said: 

Truly, God has privileged the prophets and some of the veracious ( siddiqun ) with the cog- 
nisance ( mdrifa ) of the blessings (nfarn) that God, Exalted is He, has bestowed upon them, 
before their disappearance, as well as the knowledge of God’s clemency ( hilm ) with them. 
However, the blessings of God, Exalted is He, are indeed diminished in the eyes of the person 
who does not recognise the blessings that God has granted him, other than those pertaining 
to his eating, drinking and riding [a beast of burden]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[43:15] Yet they assign to Him a part from among His servants ... 3 
r He said 1 : 

That is, a part in their 4 worship. Do you not notice how the Prophet M says, ‘Truly, some of you 
when they pray only gain from their prayer a third or a quarter of it ’? 5 
His words: 

[43:32] ...and [We have] raised some of them above others in ranks... 


1 On the Mother of the Book and its association with the Preserved Tablet, see above Tustaris commentary on 2:235 and 
p. 27, n. 84. 

2 Verse 12 mentioned the ships and cattle on which human beings are able to ride. 

3 The part’ ( juz J ), is usually understood by commentators to mean offspring’, that is to say that in pre-Islamic times, the 
Arabs believed that angels were the daughters of God. However, Tustari frees the word from that traditional association 
in his comment on this verse. 

4 Translating Hbadatihim according to all MSS: Z515, f. 97b, F638, f. 45b and F3488, f. 274a, as opposed to Hbadatihi in the 
published edition. 

5 Muhammad Shams al-Haqq al- c Azimabadi, c Awn al-ma c bud: shark li-Sunan Abl Dawud (Beirut, 1998), ‘Kitab al-Salat’. 


183 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

We raised some of them above others in gnosis ( mcfrifa ) and obedience ( td‘a ) [this being their 
source of] subsistence ( ‘aysh ) in this world and in the Hereafter. 

His words: 

[43:32] ...and the mercy of your Lord is better than what they amass. 

That is, than an abundance of works done seeking reward . 6 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[43:36] We assign a devil as a companion for whoever turns away from the remembrance of the 
Compassionate One. 

He said: 

God has decreed that any servant who turns away from His remembrance, which is to say that 
he sees in his heart anything besides Him, and acquiesces in 7 that thing, will not do so without 
God putting a devil ( shaytdn ) in power over him, who will divert him from the path of truth 
and subject him to temptation . 8 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[43:55] So when they had angered Us, We took vengeance on them... 

He said: 

That is, ‘When they enraged Us by persisting in their transgression against [Our] commandments, 
by their exhibition of innovations ( bidaf in the religion, their abandoning of the traditional 
ways [of the Prophet] ( sunan ), due to their pursuit of [their own] opinions 9 and desires. We 
removed the light of gnosis ( nur al-mdrifa) from their hearts, the lamp of the realisation of 
[Our] oneness ( sirdj al-tawhid ) from their innermost secrets ( asrdr ), and We entrusted them 
to their own selves, and to whatever they chose [for themselves]. Consequently they went 
astray and misled [others]. 

Then he said: 

Following ( ittibaf [is the key], following! Emulation (iqtidd’) [is the key], emulation! For sure, 
that was the way of the predecessors ( salaf ). He who follows [their guidance] will not go astray, 
but he who innovates will not be saved. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[43:69, 70] Those who believed in Our signs and submitted themselves [to Us will be told], •$> ‘En- 
ter Paradise, you and your spouses, to be made joyful’, 

with the delight of the vision [of God] ( nazar ), as a reward for the realisation of His oneness 
(tawhid), with which He blesses His friends, when they experience the manifestation of the [divine] 
unveiling ( tajalli al-mukashafa), this being subsistence with the Subsistent One (baqct ma c al-Baqi). 
See how He privileges them with faith on the condition that they submit to His command and 
acquiesce [in a state] of tranquil repose before Him ( sukun bayna yadayhi ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[43:71] ...and therein will be whatever souls desire and eyes delight in... 

He said: 


6 See above, the commentary on 29:17 and p. 149, n. 6, and regarding those who do good works for the sake of the rewards 
of Paradise (or of this world), 42:20 and p. 181, n. 9. 

7 Translating musakinan according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 97b, F638, f. 45b and F3488, f. 274b, instead of sakina in the 
published edition. On musakina see above Tustarfs commentary on 2:30 and 273, and p. 16, n. 26. 

8 See the commentary on 2:30 above. 

9 Translating al-ara’ according to all three MSS: Z515, f. 97b, F638, f. 45b and F3488, f. 274b, instead of wujud in the pub- 
lished edition. 


184 


43 Al-Zukhruf 


That is to say, whatever souls desire is 10 the reward for their works, whereas whatever eyes delight 
in is the empowerment ( tamkin ) n which God bestows on them at the time of the encounter 
(liqd 1 ) [with Him] as a reward for their realisation of His oneness ( tawhid ). 

[Then] he said: 

Paradise is the reward for works performed by the bodily members. The encounter is the 
reward for the realisation of Gods oneness (tawhid). Note how God, Exalted is He, has said: 
[43:72] And that is the Paradise which you have been given to inherit [as a reward for] what you 
used to do. 



10 Translating hiya, according to MS F638, f. 45b, instead of min, according to the published edition, MS Z515, f. 98a and 
F3488, f. 274b. 

11 Or tamkin could be translated as stability’ In Sufi manuals, the term tamkin (stability) is often contrasted with talwin 
(vacillation). See, for example, Hujwlrl, Kashf al-mahjub, p. 486; trans. Nicholson, p. 372; Qushayri, Risala, p. 232. 


185 


44 Al- Dukhan 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[44:3] Indeed We revealed it on a blessed night... 

He said: 

God sent the Qur’an down as a whole on the Night of Great Merit ( Laylat al-Qadr) to the 
House of Might (bayt al-izza ) in the heaven of this world, from the Preserved Tablet in the 
hands of the recording angels ( malcfik safara). It was then sent down to the spirit ( ruh ) of 
Muhammad $£, which is the blessed spirit ( ruh mubdrak), and thus He called the Night of 
Great Merit a blessed night (layla mubdraka) due to the [spiritual] link between one [descent 
of] blessing and the other. 1 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[44:10] ...the day when the heaven will produce a visible smoke. . . 

He said: 

The smoke in this world is hardness of the heart and heedlessness of (His) remembrance, 2 and 
there is no punishment severer in this world than the corruption of the heart. 

It was related of Uways al-Qaranl and Haram b. Hayyan that they met one day and Haram said 
to Uways, ‘Make a supplication to God [for me]’. So he prayed, ‘May He make your intention 
( niya ) and your heart ( qalb ) sound, for there is nothing more seriously in need of curing than 
these two. For while your heart [seems to be] going towards [God] ( muqbil ), it may [in fact] 
be going away [from Him] ( mudbir ), and while your heart [seems to be] going away, [it may, 
in fact] be going towards [Him], Do not consider the insignificance of a misdeed, but rather 
consider [the greatness of] the One whom you have disobeyed. 3 If you deem it [the misdeed] 
as great, verily you have magnified God, Exalted is He, whereas if you belittle it, for sure you 
have belittled God, Exalted is He.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[44:8] There is no god except Him. He gives life and brings death... 

He said: 

In reality, there is no god except the One who has the power to bring into existence that which 
was not in existence, and bring to extinction that which was in existence. 

His words: 

[44:24] And leave the sea behind you, at rest ... 4 


1 i.e. the coming together of the descent of the blessed Qur'an from the Preserved Tablet to the House of Might, and then 
to the blessed Prophet. The image is one of a cascade of blessings streaming down to the heart of the blessed Prophet. 

2 This may mean literally the remembrance of God, but it could also mean His Reminder ( dhikr ) in the sense of the 
Revelation. 

3 The published edition has the addition of the word c azama here, which is nicely symmetrical, although it does not accord 
with the MSS. 

4 This is part of Gods command to Moses that he should lead the Children of Israel to escape Egypt by crossing the Red 
Sea (w. 23-32). 


186 


44 Al-Dukhan 


[That is], a calm pathway ( tariq sakin) [for you to cross]. Its inner meaning is: ‘Make your 
heart acquiesce in (sakin) My management ( tadbiri ) [of your affairs].’ 5 . . .Indeed they will he 
a drowned host, that is, those who are opposed to consigning the management ( tadbir ) of 
themselves [to God]. 

His words: 

[44:42] ...except for him on whom God has mercy... 

That is, whomever God knows from His prior knowledge to be one of those who will receive 
mercy, [so that] in the end, the grace of that mercy will reach him, by virtue of His making the 
believers intercessors (shufa^df for one another. 



5 It may be recalled that in his commentary on 30:41, Tustari interprets the sea as the heart. 


187 


45 Al-Jathiya 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[45:3] Truly in the heavens and the earth there are signs (ayat ) for those who believe. 

He said: 

The signs ( c aldmdt ) are for the one who has certainty ( yaqin ) in his heart, and who is guided by 
their existence ( kawn ) to the One who has brought them into existence ( mukawwin ). 

His words: 

[45:13] He has put at your disposal all that is in the heavens and the earth, [as a gift] from Him... 
He said: 

When the heart of the servant finds tranquil repose ( sukun ) in its Master, the state of the serv- 
ant becomes strong. 1 Subsequently everything is subjected to him, and indeed everything is 
on intimate terms with him, even the birds and the beasts. 

It was related of al-Thawrl that he said, ‘I set off with Shayban al-RaT towards Mecca and on 
the way a lion appeared before us, so I said, “O Shayban, do you not see this dog?” He replied, 
“Do not fear! It’s only that the lion heard the speech of Shayban al-RaT so he started to wag his 
tail.” Then Shayban approached him and proceeded to take hold of his ear and twist it. Then I 
said, “O Shayban what is this fame you have?” He answered, “And what sort of fame is it that 
you see, O Thawrl? I swear by God that if it wasn’t for the fear of fame I wouldn’t have carried 
my provisions for the journey to Mecca other than [loaded] on its back.” 2 Shayban was on his 
way to the Friday prayer when he caught sight of a wolf with his sheep, so he said to it, “Sit with 
the sheep until I return and I will give you a lamb.” When he returned from the Friday prayer, 
he found the wolf sitting down looking after the sheep, so he gave him a lamb to take away.’ 3 4 
Sahl used to say to a youth who kept his company, ‘If you are afraid of predatory beasts then do 
not keep my company.’ And he was asked, ‘How does a man reach the rank of charismatic gifts 
(karamat)?* He replied: 

‘Whoever abstains from ( zahada ) the world for forty days in veracity and sincerity ( sddiqan wa 
mukhlisan), will have charismatic gifts ( karamat ) manifested to Him from God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He. But if [such gifts] are not manifested to a person, it is due to the lack of true 
faith and sincerity in his renunciation’ — or words to that effect. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[45:17] and We gave them clear signs of the commandment... 


1 There is always, as has been seen in Tustari s comments above, a combined sense in the expression sakana ila or sukun 
of being peaceful or at rest with, and depending upon, God, especially His management of our affairs ( tadbir ). 

2 This story is related in Ibn al-jawzl, Sifat al-safwa, vol. 4, p. 377, and in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 7, pp. 68-9. Shaybans 
fear of fame could be seen as an early example of the teachings associated with the ‘School of Blame’ ( maldmatiyya ) 
in Islamic mysticism. The principle source work on the Maldmatiyya is Abu c Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami’s Risalat al- 
malamatiyya wal-sufiyya wa ahl al-futuwwa, ed. Abu al- c Ala Aflfl (Cairo, 1945). Qushayrl’s Risala and Hujwlri’s Kashf 
al-mahjub also have chapters on malama. 

3 See also the commentary on 10:62 and p. 90, n. 10 above regarding the relationship between mystics and wild beasts. 

4 On charismatic gifts ( karamat ) see above IT, p. xx, n. 52. 


188 


45 Al-Jathiya 


He said: 

We opened their ears so that they could understand Our discourse ( khitdb ), and We made 
their hearts {afida) as vessels {w?a?) for Our speech ( kalam ). We gave them true physiognomy 
( firasa ), 5 by which they can make certain and truly-informed judgements concerning Our 
servants. These are the .. .clear signs of the commandment. . . on the inner path ( tariq al-bdtin). 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[45:18] Then We set you [Muhammad] on a [clear] course (shari a) of the commandment, so fol- 
low it. . . 

He said: 

That is, a way ( minhaj ) consisting of the established norms ( sunan ) of the prophets who came 
before you, for they [were following] the way of guidance; and the Law ( sharfa ) is the clear 
thoroughfare that extends to the path of salvation ( tariq al-najat) and the way of right guid- 
ance ( sabil al-rushd). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[45:19] Assuredly they will not avail you in any way against God... 

Whoever becomes wealthy without recourse to God will become needy through his wealth; and 
whoever gains honour without recourse to Him will be humiliated through his honour. Take 
note of how God says: Assuredly they will not avail you in any way against God... 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[45:21] Do those who have perpetrated evil acts suppose that We shall treat them as those who 
believe and perform righteous deeds, equally in their life and in their death?... 

He said: 

The one who has been seated on the carpet of conformity ( bisat al-muwdfaqa ) is not like the 
one who has been made to stand in the station of opposition (maqam al-mukhalafa ); for the 
carpet of conformity brings the person [stationed] upon it to the ‘seats’ of true faith (maqaHd 
al-sidq), whereas the station of opposition will plunge the person who holds it into a blazing fire. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[45:23] Have you not seen him who has taken as his god his [own] desire...? 

He said: 

That is to say, have you considered the one who is submersed in the delights that his lower 
self [is deriving] from this world, being neither scrupulous {war?) nor mindful of God ( taqi )? 
Hence, he pursues his own will ( murad ), and does not take the path of emulation ( iqtida ’), 6 but 
prefers the lusts of this world over the bliss of the life to come. So, how will he be able to attain 
the high ranks and sublime stations ( mandzil saniyya) in the Hereafter? 

[45:23] ...and whom God led astray knowingly...? 

He said: 

That is, with God’s prior knowledge [concerning him] that He would withdraw from him His 
protection and aid. 

His words: 

[45:26] Say: ‘God [is the One who] gives you life, then makes you to die, then gathers you to Day 
of Resurrection. . .’ 

He said: 

He gives you life in the bellies of your mothers, then He causes you to die through ignorance, 
and then without doubt He gathers you together from the first to the last of you. 


5 On firasa see above p. 73, n. 11 and p. 105, n. 5. 

6 i.e. emulating the example of the Prophet and pious predecessors. 


189 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[45:28] And you will see every community crouching ... 7 
He said: 

[Crouching] on their knees, each [community] contending for itself in the presence of [its] 
escort ( murafaqa ). The one who is true in faith ( sddiq ) will strive to prove his veracity ( sidq ), 
and the denying unbeliever (jahid ) will strive to defend himself. Each one will be judged 
according to what he recorded [for himself], his ink being his saliva, his pen his tongue and 
his parchment his bodily members. 

His words: 

[45:37] To Him belongs all grandeur in the heavens and the earth... 

He said: 

Exaltedness ( c uluww ), omnipotence ( qudra ), majesty ( c azama ), power and strength (hawl wa 
quwwa ) belong to Him in the entire dominion of creation ( mulk ). He will support with His 
power and strength whoever seeks His protection, whilst He will consign whoever relies on 
himself to his own care. But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



7 That is, on the Day of Resurrection. 


190 


4 6 Al-Ahqaf 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[46:6] And when mankind are gathered, [at the Resurrection], they will he enemies to them ... 1 
He said: 

[This] concerns their lower selves, which led them into following them, [they will be turned 
against them] as a penalty for their allowing their desire to rule [over them] , for they [their 
lower selves] will bear witness against them. Indeed, the Messenger of God 18 said: ‘Truly, the 
severest foe of man is his self that is between his two sides.’ 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[46:9] Say, ‘I am nothing new among God’s messengers...’ 

He said: 

That is, ‘There were messengers before me who commanded what I command [you] and for- 
bade what I forbid [you]. I am not peculiar ( ‘ajab ) among the messengers. I do not call you to 
anything except the profession of God’s oneness ( tawhid ), and I do not guide you to anything 
other than the noblest of ethics (makdrim al-akhlaq). It was with this that the prophets before 
me were sent.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[46:15] ...[So that] he may say: ‘Lord, inspire me to be truly grateful for the favour with which You 
have blessed me. . .’ 

He said: 

That is, ‘Inspire me to repent and do works of obedience.’ 

His words: 

[46:15] ‘. ..Invest my offspring with righteousness. . .’ 

He said: 

‘Make them Your true servants and faithful heirs for me.’ 

His words: 

[46:30] ‘...It guides to the truth and a straight way .’ 3 
He said: 

That is, it shows the path of truth, [as that] by which one leaves dealings ( mu‘dmaldt ) and 
formalities ( rusumat ) behind, [and endeavours] to realise the truth ( tahqiq al-haqq), which is 
the straight path (sirdt mustaqim). 

His words: 

[46:31] ‘O our people! Respond to God’s summoner...’ 


1 It the context of the previous Qur'anic verse, ‘they’ are those whom mankind has called upon besides God. 

2 Ajluni, Kashf al-khafa\ vol. 1, p. 148 and 160, and vol. 2, p. 222. 

3 The subject of this verse being the Qur'an. The speakers are the jinn who had listened to the Qur’an being recited and 
then went back to their people to inform them about it. 


191 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

None can respond to the one who summons, except he who has heard the call ( nida '), and 
then has been granted success to do good things, and has attained certainty (yaqin). Otherwise, 
who can respond well to the call? 

And he further said: 

Truly, in the heart of every believer there is one who summons him to his right course ( rushd ) . 
The fortunate person is he who is attentive to the call of that summoner, and follows it up. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[46:35] So endure [with patience] like those messengers of firm resolve... 

He said: 

It means, ‘Be patient with the patience ( sabr ) of the people of gnosis (ahl al-ma c rifa), just as those 
of firm resolve ( ulul-azm ) among the messengers showed patience, a patience which is [one 
of] contentment ( rida ) and submission ( taslim ) without complaint ( shakwa ) or impatience (or 
anxiety, jazafl Abraham, God’s friend 3SS, was afflicted with the fire, and the sacrifice of his son, 
but accepted it with contentment (rida) and submitted. Job 3K9 was afflicted by sickness, and 
Ishmael with the sacrifice and [likewise] showed contentment. Noah [was tested] with denial 
but remained steadfast ( sabara ), while Jonah [was placed] in the belly of the whale, but called 
on God and sought refuge in Him. Joseph, God’s blessings be upon him, [was afflicted with] 
prison and the well, but he did not alter; and Jacob was tested by the loss of his sight and his 
son, but he complained of his grief only to God and did not complain to anyone else. 4 There 
are twelve prophets, God’s blessings be upon them, who remained steadfast in the face of what 
befell them, and they are known as ‘those of firm resolve ( ulu’Wazm ) among the messengers’. 5 
But God, Transcendent and Exalted is He, knows best. 



4 An allusion to 12:86 : 1 complain of my anguish and grief only to God. 

5 The most widely accepted tradition is that the ulul-azm are not twelve but five in number mentioned in Surat al-Ahzab, 
7-8 and al-Shura, 13: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Tustari has not mentioned here Moses, Jesus or 
Muhammad, but has mentioned Job, Jonah, Joseph and Jacob. 


192 


47 Muhammad 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[47:1] God will bring to naught the deeds of those who disbelieve and bar others from the way of 
God. 

He said: 

He brought them to naught because of their utterance of words that had no reality ( haqiqa ) 
behind them. 

His words: 

[47:5] He will guide them and dispose their minds aright. 

He said: 

This means that He will guide them in their graves to answer Munkar and Naklr correctly; and 
dispose their minds aright, that is, He will bring about the commencement 1 of the reward in 
their hearts [in the grave] (jaza ’), and in the Hereafter, the delight of the meeting [with Him] 
( ladhdhat al-liqct’) at the moment of the manifestation ( tajalli ) of unveiling ( mukdshafa ), as a 
face-to-face encounter ( kifdhan ), and thereupon, [His] taking care ( tawalli ) of them, as when 
He says: 

[47:11] That is because God is patron (mawla) of those who believe... 

That is, by His good pleasure, love and His keeping them in the station of proximity ( qurb ). 
His words: 

[47:15] ...and forgiveness from their Lord . 2 
He said: 

Forgiveness from their Lord in Paradise is the lights of God which cover them at their vision 
of Him. 3 
His words: 

[47:19] ...And ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and women... 

He said: 

That is, ‘Seek forgiveness for the desire ( himma ) of the natural self (nafs al-tabf! The Prophet H 
said, ‘There is not one among us who has not had the desire [to do something] and then 
transgressed.’ 

This means that a [persons] lower self (nafs) intended something, 4 overwhelming the heart 
(' : alal-qalb ), for the immediate [gratification of its share of] lusts ( c ajil al-shahawdt), but then that 

1 That is, translating yashra'u in all three MSS: Z515, f. 100b, F638, f. 47a and F3488, f. 277b, instead of yasra c u in the 
published edition. 

2 Here, forgiveness is being described as one of the rewards of Paradise. 

3 Because otherwise they would be annihilated at the vision of God. Above, in his commentary on 43:71, Tustari spoke 
of empowerment ( tamkin ) being given to those who realise the divine oneness at the moment of encounter ( liqd ?) in 
Paradise. 

4 The word used is hamma , which has a number of meanings including to entertain the desire for something, consider, 
or be on the point of doing something, apart from its meanings of being concerned about or of importance, which are 


193 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


person turned away from that [intent] and sought forgiveness from God, just as the Prophet fg 
said: ‘Truly, my heart becomes clouded, and truly I ask forgiveness from God, Exalted is He, 
seventy times every day.’ * * 5 
His words: 

[47:24] ... or is it that they have locks on their hearts? 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, created the hearts, and secured them with locks. Then He made the reali- 
ties of faith (haqa’iq al-iman ) the keys to hearts. With those keys, the only hearts He opened to 
realisation ( tahqiq ) were those of His friends ( awliya J ), messengers ( rusul ) SaS, and the veracious 
( siddiqun ). The rest of people leave this world without the locks on their hearts being opened. 
The renunciants ( zuhhad ), devout worshippers ( c ubbad ), and scholars ( c ulama‘) will leave this 
world with locked hearts because they sought the keys to them with the intellect ( c aql ), and thus 
strayed from the path. If only they had sought them by having recourse to God-given success 
( tawftq ) and grace (fadl ), they would have attained them [the keys]. 6 

The key is to know that God is taking care of you (qa’im c alayka ), and watching over ( raqib ) 
your bodily members, and to know that works are not complete without sincerity ( ikhlds ) 
accompanied by heedfulness ( muraqaba ) [of God]. 

His words: 

[47:13] And how many a town, mightier in power than your town, which expelled you, have We 
destroyed and they had none to help them. 

In this verse there is proof of his [Muhammad’s] M superiority over Kallm [Moses] , because he 
did not leave out of fear of them in the way that Moses 850 did, 7 but he left in the way that God, 
Exalted is He, said in the words: which expelled you. He did not say ‘you left’, nor r ‘you fled’ 1 , 
nor ‘you felt afraid’, for he [acted] by God and for God at all times, 8 and it never happened that 
his attention was diverted to other [than Him] in any particular situation. 

His words: 

[47:14] Is he who follows a clear sign from his Lord...? 

He said: 

The believer has a clear explanation (bay an) from his Lord and whoever has a clear proof 
(1 bayyina ) from his Lord adheres to following the established ways of the Prophet (sunan). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[47:19] Know, then, that there is no god but God... 

He said: 

All people are dead except those who know ( c ulamd f, and for this reason He summoned His 
Prophet M to the abode of life ( mahall al-haydt ), through knowledge (Him), with His words: 
Know. . . 

His words: 

[47:33] ...Obey God and obey the Messenger... 

That is, in revering (ta c zim) God. . . .Do not render your own works void, that is, by seeing them 
as coming from yourselves and by seeking recompense (a c wad) from your Lord, for sincere 
works are those that are done without seeking recompense. 

not relevant here. Note that the saying of the Prophet cited in the previous paragraph used the word himma from the 

same verbal root, h-m-m. 

5 Bukhari, Sahih , ‘Kitab al-DaSvat’, Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 4, p. 211. 

6 On Tustaris teachings concerning the limitations of c aql, see IT, pp. xlvff. 

7 A reference to Moses’ fleeing Egypt in fear, after he had killed an Egyptian, related in 28:15-21. 

8 The insertion of the words wa lafararta, and a change of word order from lilldh wa billah, to bi’llah wa lillah , has been 
made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 101b, F638, f. 47b and F3488, f. 278a. 


194 


47 Muhammad 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[47:38] ...God is the Self-Sufficient One, while you are the needy.... 

Gnosis (ma c rifa) of the secret [divine] mystery ( sirr ) is [attained] entirely through neediness 
( faqr ), and that is Gods secret (sirr Allah) . The knowledge of [one’s] neediness for God, Exalted 
is He, is the corrective to the knowledge that [one has] richness (ghind ) through God, Mighty 
and Majestic is He. But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



195 


48 Al-Fath 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[48:1] Verily, We have given you a clear victory, 

He said: 

That is to say, ‘[We have opened] the secrets of the sciences ( asrar al- c ulum) within your heart, 
so that their traces have become manifested upon you.’ 1 They are the signs of [His] love and 
the fulfilment of [His] bounty. 

[48:2] that God may forgive you what is past of your sin and what is to come ... 2 
He said: 

That is, what is past, of the sin that your father Adam 0 [committed] while you were in his 
loins, and what is to come, of the sins of your community, as you are their leader (qald) and 
guide ( dalil ). 

His words: 

[48:4] It was He who sent down the spirit of peace (sakina) into the hearts of the believers... 

That is, profound peace ( tuma’nina ). For God first of all discloses to His servants gnosis ( ma c arif ), 
then forms of mediation (wasa'il), 3 then the spirit of peace (sakina), and lastly intuitive insights 
(basa'ir). And one to whom God discloses intuitive insights, knows things according to their 
essences ( jawahir ), 4 as did Abu Bakr al-Siddlq who never erred in speech. 

His words: 

[48:4] And to God belong the forces of the heavens and the earth... 

He said: 

His forces (junud ) are of different kinds: His forces in heaven are the prophets ( anbiyc? ), and on 
earth, [His] friends (awliyaf. His forces in heaven are hearts ( qulub ), and on the earth, souls 
(. nufus ). Whatever God empowers ( sallata ) over you, [may be counted as being] among His 
forces. If He empowers your lower self over you, your lower self will itself destroy you; and 
likewise, if He empowers your bodily members over you, they themselves will destroy you. If 
your lower self overpowers your heart, it will drive you to the pursuit of desire ( hawa ). But 
if your heart overpowers your lower self and your bodily members, it will tether them with 
propriety (adab), compel them into worship (Hbada), and then adorn them with sincerity in 
servanthood (ikhlas fi’l- c ubudiyya). All of these together amount to God’s forces. 

His words: 

[48:8] Indeed We have sent you as a witness, and a bearer of glad tidings and a Warner. 


1 The verbal root f-t-h means to open, therefore, literally the meaning of the verse is We opened ’ a clear victory for you. 
Note that Tustari’s interpretation brings out the idea of opening. Fath (pi .futuh or futuhat) is also used in Sufism to 
mean a spiritual opening, hence the title of Ibn c Arabi s work al-Futuhat al-Makkiyya. 

2 These words are addressed to the Prophet. 

3 Bowering has ‘means of communication.’ Note, above in his commentary on 32:16, Tustari spoke of them being favoured 
with wasila. On this term see p. 155, n. 4. An example of wasila will be seen in Tustari’s commentary on 57:20. 

4 lit. ‘substances’, and we might understand it to mean: ‘knows things according to their true meaning or significance’. 


196 


48 Al-Fath 


He said: 

As a witness to them of the divine oneness ( tawhid ), bringing glad tidings to them of help 
( mcfuna ) and support ( ta’yid ), and warning them against falling into innovations ( bidcf ) and 
errors ( dalalat ). 

His words: 

[48:9] . . . and that you may honour Him, and revere Him. . . 

He said: 

That is, revere Him with the utmost reverence ( tdzim ) in your hearts and obey Him with your 
bodies. This is why reverence ( ta‘zir ) is so called, because it is the greatest [thing for] disciplin- 
ing [the self] (ta’dib). 5 
His words: 

[48:10] ...the Hand of God is above their hands... 

He said: 

That is, the power ( hawl ) of God and His strength ( quwwa ) is above their strength ( quwwa ) 
and their action ( haraka ). 6 This is in their saying to the Messenger it at the time of the pledge 
( ba/a ), ‘We have pledged to you that we will not flee, and we will fight for you.’ There is another 
possible meaning of the Hand of God is above their hands, which is, the grace ( minna ) of God 
is above them in their being guided to take the pledge, and His reward ( thawdb ) for them is 
above their pledge and their obedience for you. 

His words: 

[48:11] ...‘Our possessions and our families kept us occupied ...’ 7 8 

They tried to excuse themselves with this, and God related it to you so you would know that the 
way to approach God ( iqbdl c ald’Lldh ) is through leaving behind the world and what it contains, 
for certainly that is what distracts [you] from God. Take note of how the hypocrites excused 
themselves by saying: ‘Our possessions and our families kept us occupied...’ 

His words: 

[48:25] ...And were it not for [some of] the believing men and believing women whom you did not 
know — lest you should trample them... s 


5 The verb c azzara (2nd form of the root c -z-r ) has a variety of meanings, including ‘to discipline’, chastise’, ‘to give reli- 
gious instruction and ‘to honour’ or ‘revere’. Likewise, the verb addaba (2nd form of D -d-b) can mean ‘discipline’ in the 
sense of punishment, and also ‘discipline’ in the sense of training, refining, educating, hence the noun adab, meaning 
‘culture’, ‘propriety’ or ‘manners’, comes from this verb. What Tustarl may be implying here is that through a true sense 
of reverence for God, a person is inwardly disciplined and groomed. 

6 Tustari here shows that he is ready to interpret the anthropomorphic verses metaphorically. Others believed that 
anthropomorphic expressions in the Qur’an (or hadith), such as the ‘hand(s) of God’ (Q. 5:64; 36:70; 38:76; 48:10), or 
His ‘mounting’ or ‘being established on the Throne (7:54; 10:4; 13:2; 20:5; 25:59; 32:4; 57:4) should be accepted as they 
are, without seeking to interpret them, an approach known as bi-la kayf meaning literally ‘without how’. This doctrine, 
which is said to go back to Malik b. Anas (d. 179/795), became particularly associated with the AslTarl school of theol- 
ogy, though it was adopted with a passion by many Hanballs and traditionalist ShafiTs. The Mu c tazills condemned this 
approach as being tashbih, literally likening God [to creatures] and insisted on interpreting the anthropomorphic verses 
metaphorically. On this subject see: B. Abrahamov, ‘The bi-la kayfa Doctrine and its Foundation in Islamic Theology’, 
Arabica 42 (1995), pp. 165-79; W. Williams, ‘Aspects of the Creed of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Study of Anthropomorphism 
in Early Islamic Discourse’, IJMES 36 (2002), pp. 441-63; Merlin L. Swartz, A Medieval Critique of Anthropomorphism 
(Leiden, 2002); Richard C. Martin, ‘Anthropomorphism’, EQ, vol. 1, p. 103; Josef van Ess, ‘Tashbih wa Tanzih’, El 2 , vol. x, 
P- 341- 

7 The first part of this verse states that these words were said by the Bedouins who stayed behind and did not accompany 
the Prophet on his journey to Mecca. 

8 The verse continues: and thus incur sin on account of them without knowing [it]. That is to say, if they unwittingly slew 
believers along with the disbelievers. 


197 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

The real believer ( al-mu’min c ald’l-haqiqa ) is the one who is not heedless of his lower self and 
his heart, but scrutinises his states ( ahwal ), and keeps a close watch over his moments ( awqat ). 9 
He observes his increase ( ziyada ) [in a good state, distinguishing it] from his decline ( nuqsdn ), 
and shows gratitude on seeing an increase, but when there is a decline, devotes himself [to 
remedying it] and makes supplication. 

It is through these [real believers] that God repels calamity (bale?) from the inhabitants of earth. 
The [true] believer is never lax ( mutahdwin ) with the slightest shortcoming, for laxity with a 
little will inevitably lead to [laxity in] a lot. 

He further said: 

The servant will not get the taste of faith until he abandons six vices [lit. character traits, khisal \ : 
he should abandon what is forbidden ( haram ), illegal possessions ( suhut ), what is dubious 
( shubha ), ignorance (jahl ), intoxicants] ( muskir ) and ostentation ( riya ’); [on the other hand] 
he should adhere to [six virtues]: knowledge (Him), putting his actions right (tashih al-amal ), 
integrity of heart (nash bi’l-qalb), veracity of the tongue (sidq bi’l-lisdn), correct conduct (saldh) 
in associating with people and sincerity (ikhlas) in the way he deals with his Lord. 

He also said: 

The Book of God is founded upon five [virtues] : veracity (sidq), seeking the best [through God’s 
guidance] (istikhara), consultation (istishara), patience (sabr) and gratitude (shukr). 

His words: 

[48:26] ...and made binding on them the promise to be mindful [of Him], for they were more 
worthy and deserving of it ... 10 
He said: 

[The promise to be mindful of God (kalimat al-taqwd )] is saying: ‘There is no god except God 
(la ildha illd’Llah), for truly it is the summit of mindfulness of God. 

Then he said: 

The best among people are the Muslims, the best among Muslims are the believers , 11 the best 
among believers are the scholars who act upon their knowledge, the best among those who act 
[upon their knowledge] are the fearful (khdHfun), and the best among the fearful are the sincere 
ones who are fully aware of God (al-mukhlisun al-muttaqun), whose sincerity and awareness 
of God remains with them up until their death. Indeed, the likeness of these [latter] is that 
of a passenger on board a ship at sea. He does not know whether he will be saved from [the 
sea] or drown in it. Those for whom this was true were the Companions of the Messenger of 
God M according to His words: and made binding on them the promise to be mindful of Him. 
His words: 

[48:27] ...You will assuredly enter the Sacred Mosque in safety, God willing... 

He was asked, ‘What is meant by making this exception [saying God willing] (istithna 1 )?’ He said: 
This is a way of teaching (tadim) and disciplining (ta’dib) [His] servants, [in order that they should 
feel] intense neediness (shiddat al-iftiqar) for Him at every moment and in every situation, and 
by way of emphasis (ta'kid). If God makes an exception [by saying ‘God willing’] while having 
full knowledge [of what is to happen], then it is not for one of his servants, who is deficient 
in knowledge, to determine upon something without making the exception of ‘God willing ’. 12 

9 That is to say his state in each present moment. 

10 We have followed Abdel-Haleem’s translation of kalima (lit. ‘word’) as ‘promise’. 

11 Tustari is alluding again here to the difference between the nominal submission to God ( islam ) of the muslim, and the 
state in which one has faith ( Iman ), that of the mu'min. See above, Tustari’s commentary on 14:24 in which the third 
level of ihsan is mentioned. See also IT, p. lviii, n. 265 regarding the hadith in which these three levels are discussed. 

12 On the doctrine of ‘exception ( istithna 3 ) in Islamic theology, see L. Gardet, ‘In sha 3 Allah’, El 2 , vol. 111, p. 1196. On the 
adab of istithna 3 see Ruml, Mathnawi, Bk. I, lines 48-50. 


198 


48 Al-Fath 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[48:29] ...The mark is on their faces, from the effect of their prostrations. . . 

He said: 

The believer (mu'min) in God is a face without a reverse side, [since he is] advancing towards 
Him without ever turning back from Him. This is the mark of the believers. A m i r b. c Abd 
al-Qays said, ‘It is almost as if the face of a believer is informing [us] of that which is hidden 
within him, and the same can be said of the face of the disbeliever.’ This is what is meant by 
His words: The mark is on their faces. Ibn Mas c ud said, ‘The secret of the believer is a mantle 

over him’. But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



199 


49 Al-Hujurat 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[49:1] Oyou who believe! Do not be forward in the presence of God and His Messenger... 

He said: 

Verily, God, Exalted is He, has instructed His believing servants in propriety (adab). The meaning 
is: ‘Do not speakbefore he [the Prophet] speaks’. Then when he speaks, move forward towards 
him, hearkening and listening to him; . . . and fear God, regarding the neglect of His rights, and 
the loss of reverence for Him. Surely God hears what you say, and knows what you do. 

His words: 

[49:2] ...and do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet... 

That is, ‘Do not address him except when seeking to understand [from him] .’ Then He explains 
the honour of the one who reveres Him, and says: 

[49:3] ...they are the ones whose hearts God has tested for mindfulness of Him... 

That is, He has made their intentions pure for Him. 

His words: 

[49:6] ...If a reprobate comes to you with some tiding... 

He said: 

The reprobate (fdsiq ) is a liar ( kadhdhab ). The inner meaning of the verse is to teach (ta'dib) a 
person who has been informed of someone’s derogation of him, that he should not rush into 
exacting retribution on them, without having found out about [the matter] for himself. 

His words: 

[49:8] [that is] a favour from God and a blessing... 

He said: 

God has favoured them by that which He initially granted them, 1 and He has guided them to 
Him with various kinds of proximity ( qurb ) and intimacy ( zulf ). 

His words: 

[49:7] ...God had endeared faith to you and made it beautiful to your hearts... 

He said: 

As a kindness ( c atf) from Him, He singled out your hearts for His worship and endowed them 
with sincerity. [This is so] because being singled out ( istikhlds ) is from His kindness ( c atf ), while 
[your] sincerity ( ikhlds ) is His right ( haqq ). 2 A servant cannot fulfil His right save through His 
kindness in granting him assistance through the means of faith ( asbdb al-iman), which are the 
irrefutable proofs and wondrous signs (dydt mu c jiza). 

His words: 

[49:7] ...He has made disbelief mischief and disobedience hateful to you... 

1 That is, what He ordained for them in pre-eternity. 

2 In other words we cannot consider selection to be a right; it is only due to His kindness, while on the other hand our 
sincerity is a right that we owe Him. 


200 


49 Al-Hujurat 


due to the fear of His abhorrent punishment. 

His words: 

[49:9] If two parties of believers fall to fighting, you [believers] make peace between them... 

He said: 

The outward meaning of the verse is as those specialised in exegesis have explained. 3 However, 
in its inner meaning it refers to the spirit ( ruh ), intellect ( c aql ), heart ( qalb ), basic nature ( tabf , 
desire ( hawa ) and lust ( shahwa ). If natural instinct, desire and lust take up arms against the 
heart, intellect and spirit, the servant must fight them with the swords of vigilance ( muraqaba ) , 
the arrows of inspection ( mutalda ) and the lights of conformity ( muwafaqa ), so that the spirit 
and the intellect gain the upper hand, and desire and lust are vanquished. 

His words: 

[49:12] ...Shun much suspicion... 

He said: 

That is, ‘Do not discredit anyone [by holding] a bad opinion ( su 7 al-zann ) about them without 
[knowing] the truth ( haqiqa ) [of the matter] .’ 4 Indeed the Prophet fg said: ‘The most untruthful 
of reports is that of opinion (za««).’ 5 
Then Sahl said: 

Bad opinion comes from ignorance and pertains to the natural self ( nafs al-tab ). The most 
ignorant person is the one who estranges his heart [from God] without being aware of it. Indeed, 
God, Exalted is He, has said: And that suspicion of yours which you held about your Lord has 
ruined you, so you have become among the losers. [41:23] Certainly, the servant is deprived of 
blessed provision and prayer at night because of bad opinion. 

One night a man, one of [God’s] servants, slept through [and missed] his customary rite ( wird ) 
and felt regret over it. 6 [He] was asked: ‘Do you feel regret about [missing] that which you are 
wont to perform?’ He replied, ‘I do not feel regret because of that, but rather because of the 
sin through which I became deprived of that good [deed].’ 

Sahl was asked, ‘What is the meaning of the Prophet’s words H: “Be on your guard with people, [by 
holding a] bad opinion (su 7 al-zann)!” 7 He replied: 

The meaning of this is [that protection from people] is [gained by holding a] bad opinion of 
yourself, not of other people. In other words, accuse your own self for not treating them fairly 
in your dealings with them. 8 
His words: 

[49:12] ...and do not spy... 


3 According to the comment on this verse in Tafsir al-Jalalayn , the verse is alluding to the fight between two clans, those 
of Ibn Ubayy and Ibn Rawa c a. It is reported that the Prophet M was riding on a donkey and as it passed by Ibn Ubayy it 
urinated. Ibn Ubayy held his nose, whereupon Ibn Rawa c a remarked, ‘By God, the smell of the donkeys urine is sweeter 
than your musk’. Fighting then ensued between their two clans involving fists, sandals and palm branches. 

4 For Tustarl’s discussion of the benefits of husn al-zann (‘good opinion ), see above, the commentary on the poem included 
in his commentary on 2:260. See also IT, pp. lii-liii. 

5 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Nikah’, and ‘Kitab al-Adab’; Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Adab’. 

6 The term wird (pi. awrad ) is used to denote supererogatory devotions that may be observed at certain times of the day 
and night. With the formation of the Sufi ‘orders’ ( turuq , pi. of tariqa) from the sixth/twelfth century on, certain awrad 
or sets of formulae became associated with a particular initiatory chain ( silsila ), and these awrad are given to disciples 
by a master at the time of their initiation. 

7 Tabarani, al-Mu c jam al-awsat, vol. 1, p. 189. 

8 One is then protecting oneself from wronging them, the serious implications of which are discussed by Tustari in his 
commentary on 99:7. See also p. 300, n. 5. 


201 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

That is, ‘Do not search out the faults that God has covered for His servants, for you may well 
be afflicted by that [fault]. 

It was related of Jesus 8£@l that he used to say, ‘Do not speak too much other than in remem- 
brance of God, Mighty and Majestic is He, for your hearts will be hardened, and the heart that 
is hard is far from God. Do not regard the faults of people as if you were their masters, but look 
at your own works as if they were your slaves. 9 Know that people are either afflicted ( mubtald ) 
or preserved ( mu‘dfd ), so show mercy to those who are afflicted and ask God for preservation.’ 
His words: 

[ 49 : 12 ] ...or backbite one another... 

He said: 

Whoever wants to be safe from backbiting must bar the door to [ill] assumptions ( zunun ) in 
himself, 10 for whoever is safe from making ill assumptions, is safe from backbiting (ghayba ), 
and whoever is safe from backbiting, is safe from calumny (ziir), and whoever is safe from 
calumny, is safe from slander ( buhtan ). 

He said: 

And Ibn "Abbas said, ‘The hypocrite ( munafiq ) is guilty of backbiting, but the wicked (fdsiq ) 
are not guilty of backbiting. This is because the hypocrites keep silent about their hypocrisy, 
whereas the wicked openly take pride in their wickedness.’ 

He said: 

He [Ibn "Abbas] intended by this the sins ( ma‘dsi ) that they commit openly, whereas the sins 
which are kept a secret are a form of backbiting (ghayba). * 11 
His words: 

[ 49 : 14 ] ...Say, ‘You do not have faith; rather say, “We have submitted ”...’ 12 
He said: 

This means [they should admit], ‘We [only] affirmed [the faith] from fear of being taken captive 
or killed; for faith ( iman ) is in the truthful affirmation of the tongue (iqrar al-lisdn sidqan ), and 
certainty within the heart as a binding pact [with God] (iqdn ft’l-qalb " aqdan ), along with the 
realisation ( tahqiq ) of these through the bodily members with sincerity ( ikhlds ). Faith (iman) 
has nothing to do with affiliations (ansdb); rather affiliations are only a part of Islam. 13 The 
Muslim is beloved of people but the believer is in no need (ghani ) of people. 14 
His words: 

[ 49 : 17 ] They deem it to be a favour to you that they have submitted. . . 

Namely, that they affirmed as true that to which you were summoning them. (Say) ‘...Rather 
it is God who has done you a favour in that He has guided you to faith, if you are being truth- 
ful,’ that is, if you are aware that it is God who blessed you with guidance from the beginning. 


9 i.e., with the critical eye of the slavemaster. This tradition is also related in Imam Maliks Muwatta 3 , ‘Kitab al-Kalam’; 
Ibn Abi Shayba, al-Musannaf, vol. 6, p. 340; and Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-lman, vol. 4, p. 263. 

10 On holding ‘false assumptions’ or a ‘bad opinion’ as opposed to having a good opinion, again see above IT, p. hi. 

11 This is an example of an esoteric interpretation of a tradition or hadith. 

12 The context which precedes and follows these words of 49:14, is that the desert Arabs claim to believe, but God tells 
the Prophet to tell them that they should not claim to believe or have faith, but rather they should say that they have 
submitted, for faith has not yet entered into your hearts. 

13 Again, note the distinction being made both in the verse and in Tustari’s commentary between islam and iman. See 
above, the commentary on 48:26 and IT, p. lviii, n. 265. 

14 That is, he should be solely dependent on God. 


202 


49 Al-Hujurat 


Sahl said: 

I practised scrupulous piety {ward) for forty years and it happened that [my] attention was 
turned from me towards Him 115 and He corrected me with His words: They deem it to be a 
favour to you that they have submitted . 16 But God Glorified and Exalted is He knows best. 



15 The addition has been made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 105a, F638, f. 49a and F3488, f. 283a, which all have 
waqcfa minni ilayhi iltifat. 

16 Tustari is here acknowledging that he had imagined it was he who was practising scrupulous piety, but then was made 
to realise that this was a divine favour. Compare the words of Bayazid (Abu Yazid al-Bistaml): ‘At the beginning [of my 
wayfaring] I was mistaken in four things: I supposed that I remembered Him and knew Him and loved Him and sought 
Him. When I had become advanced [on the Way], I saw that His remembrance preceded my remembrance, His gnosis 
preceded my gnosis, His love came before my love, and that He sought me first, so that I would seek Him.’ The saying 
of Bayazid is cited in Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 10, p. 34. 


203 


50 Qaf 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:1] Qaf... 

[With this word] God, Exalted is He, made an oath by His strength ( quwwa ) and omnipotence 
( qudra ). In its outer meaning it refers to the mountain which surrounds this world, which is 
the first mountain God, Exalted is He, created. Then after it, He created Mount Abu Qubays, 
which is the mountain which rises above Safa. Beyond this, by a distance of one year’s journey, 
is a mountain behind which the sun sets, just as He said: until it [the sun] disappeared behind 
[night’s] veil [38:32]. It has a face like a human face and a heart like the hearts of the angels in 
gnosis (fi’l-mdrifa) } 

His words: 

[50:1] ...By the glorious Qur’an. 

He said: 

This means that it is honoured above all other speech. 

His words: 

[50:8] As an insight and a reminder for every penitent servant. 

He said: 

This means: r as a lesson and source of evidence, guiding them to believe in the oneness of their 
Lord and to show gratitude to Him -[ 1 2 penitent (munlb), that is, one who devotes his heart purely 
to God by turning his attention [wholly] to Him, 3 and by maintaining God’s remembrance 
( dhikr ) in the practice of his obligatory duties ( wajibat ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:12] ...as did the dwellers at al-Rass... 

That is, the well. And al-Ayka [50:14] is a wood. In its inner meaning, the people of Rass are the 
people of ignorance, and the dwellers in the wood [50:14] are the pursuers of lusts. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:18] he does not utter a word but there is beside him a watcher, ready. 

He said: 

That is, an attendant guardian who is never absent from him. The angels 4 do not know the good 
and evil that is within a person’s conscience ( damir ) save when that person’s heart acquiesces 
in it [either good or evil] . When there is a resolution [to do] something good, its effect will 
manifest a beautiful perfume within the breast (sadr) and thence from the breast to the bodily 


1 Sic in both the printed edition and the MSS. On Mount Qaf see above p. 59, n. 29. 

2 Added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 105 a, F638, f. 49b and F3488, f. 283b. 

3 Translating bi’l-tawajjuh ilayhi as in all three MSS: Z515, f. 105a, F638, f. 49b and F3488, f. 283b, instead of bi’l-tawhid 
ilayhi in the published edition. 

4 Translating mala'ika in the plural, according to the MSS, whereas the published edition has the singular, malak. 


204 


50 Qdf 


members; whereas when there is a resolution to do evil it manifests darkness and a rotten smell. 
In any event, God knows all of this from [the servant], so he should fear Him in accordance 
with His words, Surely God has been watchful over you [4:1]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:21] And every soul will come accompanied by a driver and a witness. 

This means: the recording [angels] ( kataba ) who were with him in this world will lead him 
to the gathering place and will testify either for or against him. Then the servant says, ‘Is not 
what You say the truth? Indeed, You have said: And if you were to enumerate God’s favours 
you could never number them [14:34]’. And Your Prophet M said, ‘None of you enters Paradise 
through his works, but only through His mercy.’ 5 Then God says, ‘My words are the truth, and 
my Prophet has spoken truly, so therefore proceed to Paradise through My mercy.’ 

He said: 

This is the meaning of His words, Exalted is He: ...and for them is forgiveness and a generous 
provision [8:74]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:22] ...and your sight on this Day is acute. 

That is to say, your heart’s vision ( basar ) will be penetrating ( nafidh ), in its witnessing ( mushahada ) 
of all its affairs and conditions [on this Day]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:29] The word that comes from Me cannot be changed... 

That is, ‘What is within My prior knowledge does not change, so that it would become contrary 
to My pre-existing knowledge concerning it.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:32] ‘...[it is] for everyone who is oft-returning (awwab), heedful (hafiz) of God ...’ 6 
He said: 

He is the one who turns back with his heart from evil suggestions to tranquil reliance ( sukun ) 
on God, Exalted is He, and is the heedful one (hafiz), who guards his moments ( awqdt ) and 
states (ahwal), [while] keeping to His commandments and observing acts of obedience. 

Ibn c Ayniyya said, ‘The one who is oft-returning, heedful of God is the person who does not get 
up from a gathering until he has asked for God’s forgiveness for it, regardless of whether it was 
good or bad, due to the imperfection and deficiency that he sees in it.’ 7 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:37] Assuredly there is in that a reminder for him who has a heart (qalb)... 

That is, whoever has an intellect ( c aql ) by which he acquires knowledge of the sacred law ( c ilm 
al-sharf. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[50:37] ...or gives ear. 

That is, he listens to Our reminder while being attentive [lit. present, ( hadir )] and witnessing 
his Lord, not absent from Him. 


5 Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Marda 3 ’, ‘Kitab al-Riqaq’; Haythami, Majma c al-zawaHd, vol. 10, p. 357. 

6 [It] being the reward of Paradise. On the word awwab having the sense of repeatedly repenting’, see above Tustari’s 
commentary on 17:25. 

7 i.e., his conduct in it. In the Glorious Treasure of Habib c Umar b. Muhammad b. Salim (London), p. 37, two similar hadiths 
are cited. The first is related on the authority of Abu Hurayra, according to whom the Prophet M said, ‘If a person sits 
in company which indulges in idle talk, and before standing says, “Glory be to You, praise be to You. I testify that there 
is no god but You; I ask Your forgiveness and I repent to you;” he is forgiven for his participation in that company.’ The 
hadith is recorded as sound by Abu Dawud, NasaT, Ibn Hibban and TirmidhI. 


205 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


Sahl was asked about the intellect ( c aql ) and he said: 

Intellect is having good judgement ( husn al-nazar ) for yourself of the outcome of your affairs. 
But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



206 


5i Al-Dhariyat 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 51 : 15 ] Truly those who are mindful of God will be amid gardens and springs. 

He said: 

He who is mindful of God ( muttaqi ) [inhabits] in this world gardens of [God’s] good pleasure 
( rida ), and swims in well-springs of intimate companionship ( uns ). This is the inner meaning 
of the verse . 1 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 51 : 17 ] They used to sleep little of the night. 

He said: 

Neither heedlessness ( ghafla ) nor sleep ever, under any circumstances, diverts them from the 
remembrance [of God]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 51 : 19 ] and there was a share in their wealth [assigned] for the beggar and the deprived. 

He said: 

That is, [they give] alms both to those who ask for them and to those who do not ask. 

Hasan al-Basri said: 

In my time I came across people among whom [it was the custom for] the man to adjure his 
family never to turn away any supplicant. I also came across people among whom a man would 
leave his brother responsible for his family for forty years. [Moreover,] the members of his 
household would suffer a supplicant even if they were neither of jinn nor of humankind. Those 
who came before you only took from this world what was absolutely necessary. They would 
sell their own selves for the sake of kindness [to others] . May God have mercy on the person 
who lives the simplest of lives , 2 eating just a crust of bread, and wearing worn-out clothes, who 
is the lowliest of men , 3 strives hard in his worship, cries over the misdeed he commits, flees 
from punishment and seeks God’s mercy up to the moment when death overtakes him, he 
being in that state .’ 4 

It was related that a man came to the Prophet SI and said, ‘O Messenger of God — may God 
make me your ransom! — what is the matter with me that I dislike death?’ He said, ‘Do you 
have wealth?’ He replied, ‘Yes.’ So [the Prophet] said, ‘Then give away your wealth.’ [The man] 
replied, ‘I am incapable of doing that, O Messenger of God.’ [The Prophet said 5s], 5 ‘Truly, a 

1 The outer meaning would indicate that the gardens and springs are rewards in the Hereafter, but by saying ‘in this world’ 
Tustari has, in its inner interpretation, extended the reward for mindfulness of God to life in the present. 

2 lit. who can be sustained by one kind of sustenance ( jcfalal-aysh wahidan). 

3 lit. he cleaves to the earth. 

4 Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 2, p. 149; BayhaqI, Kitab al-Zuhd al-kabir, vol. 2, p. 65. 

5 MSS Z515, f. 107a and F3488, f. 284b-285a have \..ya rasul Allah ’ followed by the statement about man’s heart being 
attached to his wealth which therefore attributed the statement to the man, whereas F638, f. 50a, having qala nabl Allah, 
and the published edition, ‘...yd rasul Allah.’ Qala, are both assuming the statement to be a saying of the Prophet. This 
tradition appears with slight variation in Ibn Mubarak, Kitab al-Zuhd wa’l-raqaHq (India, 1966), p. 224. 


207 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


man’s heart is with his wealth, so if he gives his wealth away, it will want to go along with it, but 
if he holds on to it, it will want to remain with it .’ 6 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 51 : 20 ] On earth there are signs for those who know with certainty, 

He said: 

That is, [signs] for the mystics ( c arifun ) by which they find evidence for their gnosis ( mdrifa ). 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 51 : 21 ] and in yourselves too, do you not see? 

He said: 

That is, [signs] in their forms; in their being endowed with the finest proportions ( taqadir ); in 
their veins, which run through them like flowing rivers; and in His dividing them ( shuquq ) 
without your experiencing any pain, after your being a mere drop . 7 8 Then He assembled you 
stage by stage. Do you not see this remarkable omnipotence ( qudra ), and hence believe in His 
unicity ( wahdaniyya ) and His omnipotence (qudra)? 

Furthermore, God, Exalted is He, has created within the soul of the son of Adam one thousand 
and eighty portents, three hundred and sixty of which are apparent and three hundred and 
sixty of which are hidden, but which you could see if He unveiled them to you. The [remaining] 
three hundred and sixty of them are obscure and are only known to a prophet or veracious 
person ( siddiq ). If just one of these [latter portents] were to be revealed to the possessors of 
intellects ( ahl al-uqul), they would attain sincerity ( ikhlds ). 

Truly God, Exalted is He, has veiled the hearts of those who are heedless (ghafilun) from His 
remembrance due to their pursuance oflusts, which [prevent them] from perceiving these por- 
tents. However, He has unveiled them to the hearts of those who have gnosis of Him ( c arifun ), 
thereby causing them to attain it [sincerity]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 51 : 22 ] And in heaven is your provision, as [also] that which you are promised. 

That is, ‘Apply yourself to worshipping Me and do not let the work of seeking your provision 
divert you from Us, for truly We are providing for you.’ 

Then He said: 

God is content with your performing for Him just a day’s worship at a time, so be content with 
Him for the provision you receive a day at a time. 

He further said: 

It also has another interpretation: And in heaven is your provision, that is, of remembrance 
and its reward. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 51 : 24 ] Has the story reached you, of Abraham’s honoured guests? 

He said: 

He [God] called them honoured ( mukramun ) because he [Abraham] served them himself, 
and for seven days he had not eaten anything, as he was waiting for a guest. Then when God, 
Exalted is He, sent His angels to Him, he rejoiced at them and served them himself, but did 
not eat with them. This is the mark of true friendship ( khilla), s that is, to feed others without 
eating oneself, and to cure another’s illness when one is sick . 9 


6 Note that all three MSS have in khallafahu instead of in akhkharahu. The hadith is listed in Daylami, Firdaws , vol. 3, p. 
205. 

7 An allusion to 16:14; 35:11; 53:46; 75:37 and 76:2. Perhaps what is meant is the dividing of the cells. 

8 Note, as mentioned above, p. 30, n. 94, Abraham’s honorary title is 1 Khalil Allah ’ (Friend of God). 

9 A practice which Tustari carried out himself, for which see IT, p. xxi. MSS Z515, f. 107a and F638, f. 50b have: wa yashfl 


5i Al-Dhariyat 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[51:50] [Say] ‘So flee to God. Truly I am a clear Warner to you from Him.’ 

He said: 

That is, ‘Flee from that which is other than God to God. Flee from disobedience to obedience, 
from ignorance to knowledge, from His punishment to His mercy, and from His wrath to His 
good pleasure.’ Indeed, the Prophet M said, ‘I take refuge in You from You.’ 10 This in itself is a 
great branch of knowledge. 

His words: 

[51:54] So shun them, you will not be reproached. 

He said: 

Turn away from them, for you have striven with all your effort in conveying [the message] . But 
God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



al-ghayr min ahadin wa yasqam , whereas the published edition has wa yashfi al-ghayr min alamin wa yasqam, which 
is what we have translated here. 

10 Nisaburi, al-Mustadrak, vol. 3, p. 93; Tirmidhi, Sunan, ‘Kitab al-Da c wat’. 


209 


52 Al-Tur 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[52:4] By the [Much] -frequented House 1 2 
He said: 

The outward meaning is in what Muhammad b. Sawwar related in his chain of transmission 
from Ibn Mas c ud who stated that the Prophet #g said, ‘On the night I was taken up to the 
heaven, I saw the Much-frequented House (Bayt Ma c mur) in the fourth heaven (and it is also 
related, the seventh). Each day seventy thousand angels make a pilgrimage to it, and never 
return — to the end of the hadlth. 1 

In its inner meaning, it refers to the heart; the hearts of mystics are frequented ( mtfmura ) 
by His gnosis ( maLifa ), His love ( mahabba ) and intimacy ( uns ) with Him. It is to this [the 
mystic’s heart] that the angels make pilgrimage, for it is the House of the Realisation of God’s 
Oneness ( bayt al-tawhld). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[52:5] and the raised canopy 

This is the pleasing r and pure 1 act ( al-amal al-murdi r al-zaki "'j , 3 through which no reward is 
sought except God, Exalted is He. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[52:26] [They will say, ] ‘Truly, before, when we were amid our families, we used to be ever anxious,’ 
He said: 

That is, in fear and trepidation of an ill decree ( su 1 al-qada j and the spiteful rejoicing of the enemy. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[52:48] And submit patiently to the judgement of your Lord; you are under Our watchful eye... 
That is, ‘Whatever pertaining to action (fij) and power (qudra) appears in your character, [know 
that] it is He who has taken your whole being into His care ( ri‘dya ), protection ( kildya ), good 
pleasure ( rida ) and love (mahabba), and guarded you from the Enemy.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[52:48] ...Celebrate the praise of your Lord when you rise, 

He said: 

This means: ‘Perform the prescribed prayer with sincerity for your Lord when you rise for it.’ 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[52:49] and glorify Him at night and at the receding of the stars. 


1 The ‘Bayt Macmur is traditionally said to be in heaven (according to various reports it is said to be the third, fourth, sixth 
or seventh heaven) directly above the Ka c ba, and is visited each day by seventy thousand angels, who circumambulate 
it and perform prayers there, but do not return. 

2 Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Iman. This hadlth is among those which relate the Mi c raj, the miraculous ‘Night Journey’ and 
Ascension of the Prophet. For references to traditional material on the Mi Q raj see above IC, p. 4, n. 15. 

3 The addition is made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 107 b, F638, f. 50b and F3488, f. 286a. 


210 


52 Al-Tur 


He said: 

That is, ‘Do not be negligent in remembering the One who is never negligent in His benefi- 
cence towards you, or in giving you His protection at all times, morning and evening.’ But God, 
Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



211 


53 Al-Najm 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:1] By the star when it sets, 

That is, [by] Muhammad H when he returned from the heavens. 1 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:2] your companion has neither gone astray nor has he erred, 

He said: 

That is, he never ever strayed from the reality of the divine oneness (haqiqat al-tawhid), nor 
ever followed Satan under any circumstances. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:3] nor does he speak out of [his own] desire, 

[He said]: 

That is, he never ever utters falsehoods ( bdtil ). 

Then he said: 

His utterances were among the proofs ( hujaj ) of God, Exalted is He, so how could desire or 
Satan have any means of thwarting him? 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:8] Then he drew near and drew closer still, 

He said: 

That is, he approached, drawing closer and closer. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:11] The heart did not deny what he saw. 

r That is to say, what he saw 12 at the witnessing ( mushahada ) of his Lord, through the vision 
( basar ) of his heart as a face-to-face encounter ( kifdh ). 3 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:12] Will you then dispute with him concerning what he saw ? 

What he saw from Us and through Us; and what he sees from Us and through Us is more 
excellent than what he sees r from Us 1 through himself. 4 

1 Sura 53:1-15 are said to describe the Mi c raj, miraculous Night Journey and Ascension, of the Prophet. Again, for refer- 
ences to traditional material on the Mi c raj see above, IC, p. 4, n. 15. 

2 The addition was made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 108a, F638, f. 50b and F3488, f. 286b. 

3 There was a debate among Muslim theologians and mystics as to whether the Prophet’s vision of God during his MFraj 
was a vision of the eyes or the heart. See Schimmel, Muhammad, pp. 162-4; Heribert Busse, ‘Jerusalem in the Story of 
Muhammad’s Night Journey and Ascension,’ Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 14 (1991), pp. 1-40. Note that by using 
the expression Vision of his heart’ ( basar qalbihi ), Tustari appears to adhere to the view that it was an inner vision of 
the heart. In our translation of Tustari’s commentary on 53:1-13, reference has been made in various ways to Bowering’s 
translation in his Mystical Vision, pp. 150-1. For a discussion of this and other related passages in Tustari’s commentary, 
see ibid, pp. 149-53. 

4 The addition was made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 108a, F638, f. 50b and F3488, f. 286b. 


212 


53 Al-Najm 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:13] And verily he saw him another time, 

He said: 

That is, in the beginning when God, Glorified and Exalted is He, created him as a light within 
a column of light (nuran ft c amud al-nur), a million years before creation, 5 with the essential 
characteristics of faith (tabaV al-iman), in a witnessing of the unseen within the unseen 
( mushahadat al-ghayb bi’l-ghayb). He stood before Him in servanthood ( c ubudiyya ), by the 
lote tree of the Ultimate Boundary [53:14], 6 this being a tree at which the knowledge of every 
person reaches its limit. 

[53:16] when there shrouded the lote tree that which shrouded [it]. 

This means: That which shrouded 1 the lote tree (ay md yaghsha al-shajara ) 7 was from the light of 
Muhammad as he worshipped. It could be likened to golden moths, which God sets in motion 
towards Him from the wonders of His secrets. All this is in order to increase him [Muhammad] 
in firmness ( thabdt ) for the influx [of graces] ( mawarid ) which he received [from above]. 8 
[53:17] The eye did not swerve, nor did it go beyond [the bounds]. 

He did not incline to the evidences of his self ( shawahid nafsihi), nor to witnessing them 
(; mushdhadatiha ), but was totally absorbed in the witnessing ( mushdhada ) of his Lord, Exalted is 
He, seeing ( shahid ) the attributes [of God] that were being manifested [to him] , which required 
firmness from him in that place ( mahall ). 

[53:18] Verily he saw some of the greatest signs of his Lord. 

That is, those of His attributes that became manifest through His signs. Though he saw them, 
he did not let slip [his gaze] from his witnessed Object ( mashhud ) [of worship], and did not 
withdraw from the vicinity of his worshipped Object ( mdbud ), but rather [what he saw] only 
increased him in love ( mahabba ), longing ( shawq ) and strength ( quwwa ). 

God gave him the strength by which he could bear the theophany ( tajalli ) and supreme lights 
( anwdr c azima). This was out of his being favoured above the other prophets. Do you not see 
how Moses fell down in a swoon at the theophany. Yet twice as much did the Prophet it pen- 
etrate it (jdbahu ) in his contemplation, through a face-to-face encounter with the sight of his 
heart ( kifdhan bi-basar qalbihi), and yet remained firm due to the strength of his state, and his 
elevated station ( maqdm ) and rank ( daraja ). 9 


5 The words wa yuqalu preceding nuran are absent from the MSS. 

6 We have taken ‘He stood before Him in servanthood’ to be referring to the Mi c raj , whereas Bowering has understood 
Muhammad’s standing in servanthood to be a reference to part of his creation — his reasons for this may well have been 
the other passage (in the commentary on 24:35), which speaks of Muhammad’s prostration before God from which the 
mighty column appeared. However, in our view, the main part of the commentary on verse 13 is describing the time 
before creation when the Prophet ‘saw’ God, depicted as a witnessing of the unseen within the unseen, whilst the words 
‘he stood before Him in worship’, seems to be a movement towards the next verse. This is certainly how it appears from 
the MSS, since there is no break between that sentence and verse 14. Moreover, this is further confirmed by the reference 
in the commentary on the following verse to the light of Muhammad shrouding the lote tree. 

7 Significantly, the MSS have the addition of ay md yaghsha before al-sidra min nur Muhammad ft Hbadatihi, meaning that 
Tustari is defining in his commentary what was shrouding the tree, namely an emanation from the light of Muhammad 
in his worship. 

8 See above, the commentary on 43:71, where Tustari mentions the divine empowerment ( tamkin ), granted to believers 
upon their encounter with God in Paradise, as a reward for their realisation of God’s oneness in this life. 

9 Later Sufis, such as Sulami, Qushayri and Maybudi contrasted the different responses of Moses and Muhammad to the 
theophany. See, for example, Sulami, Bay an lata'if al-mi c raj, trans. Colby, Nos 13, 15 and 45, and translator’s comment 
to the latter p. 126. Some commentators contrasted the two prophets’ experiences in order to illustrate the opposite sta- 
tions of talwin (vacillation) and tamkin (firmness or stability) — the latter being the equivalent to Tustari’s thabdt. See 
the section on talwin and tamkin in Qushayri’s Risala, pp. 232-5, trans. Knysh, p. 101; Sulami, Risala al-Malamatiyya in 
Nasrollah Pourjavady, ed., Majmtfa (Tehran, 1990), p. 403; French trans. Deladriere, p. 30; and Maybudi, Kashf al-asrar, 
vol. 2, p. 93. 


213 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:40] and that his endeavour will be seen , 10 
He said: 

That is, his endeavour (saT) will be seen, and he will know that it is not worthy of God. He will 
see what his endeavour is entitled to, * 11 and that if God’s grace did not reach him, his endeavour 
would come to nought. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[53:43] and that it is He who makes to laugh and to weep, 

He said: 

That is. He made the obedient laugh with His mercy ( rahma ) and destroyed the transgressors 
with His wrath ( sakht ). He made the hearts of the mystics joyful with the light of gnosis of Him 
and made the hearts of His enemies grieve with the darkness of His wrath. 

[53:44] and that it is He who brings death and gives life, 

He said: 

He caused the hearts of His enemies to die through disbelief ( kufr ) and darkness ( zulma ), and 
He gave life to the hearts of His friends through faith ( iman ) and the lights of gnosis ( anwdr 
al-ma c rifa). 

[53:48] and that it is He who gives wealth and grants possessions 
He said: 

Its outward meaning refers to worldly possessions, and its inner meaning is that He enriches 
[His servants] through obedience and impoverishes them through disobedience. 

IbnTJyayna said, He who gives wealth and grants possessions means: He gives satisfaction ( aqna c a ) 
and contentment ( arda ). But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



10 This and the following verses are a continuation of the question that is begun in verse 36: Has he [ man ] not been informed 
of what is in the scrolls of Moses. . . ? 

11 i.e. he will see that it is worth nothing in the face of God. Or it could mean, he will see who (namely God) is entitled to 
his endeavour. 


214 


54 Al-Qamar 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[54:1] The Hour has drawn near and the moon has split. 

During the time of the Messenger of God H, when it was cleft into two segments, such that one 
segment disappeared behind Mount al-I lira . This was the first of the signs [of the approach] 
of the Hour . 1 

The following is related from Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Sulaml : 2 ‘Once I was with my father in 
town when the time for the Friday prayer came, so he took me by the hand and went with me 
to the Friday prayer. Then Hudhayfa b. al-Yaman rose to the pulpit, praised God and extolled 
Him, and said, “The Hour has drawn near and the moon has split. Is not the Hour drawing nigh? 
Has the moon not been cleft asunder? Is this world not fading into decline? Is it not so, that 
the race track is set today and the race will be on the morrow?” When we went outside again 
I said, “O Father, will people race each other tomorrow?” He replied “O my son! It’s clear you 
don’t realise [what he meant by] ‘The race is on the morrow’. He is just saying that whoever 
works [righteousness] today will excel in the Hereafter .’” 3 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[54:17] And verily We have made the Qur'an easy to remember. Is there anyone who will remember ? 4 
That is, ‘We have made the Qur'an easy to remember. If it were not so, tongues would not have 
been able to enunciate it. So will anyone take heed of this blessing (ni c ma)V 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[54:52] And everything they have done is in the scrolls, 

He said: 

That is, in the books which the recording angels write. 

[54:53] and every [matter] small and great, is recorded. 

That is, written in the book, which is then shown to them on the Day of Resurrection, [when 
they stand] before God. 

The [following] saying is related from Abu Hazim: ‘Woe to you, O A c raj! The people of sin will 
be summoned on the Day of Resurrection with the call: “O people of such and such a sin!” and 
you will stand up with them. Then it will be called out: “O people of such and such a sin!” and 
you will stand up with them. Indeed, I see you, A c raj, standing with the people of every kind 
of sin.’ But God, Glorfied and Exalted is He, knows best. 


1 On this event see Lings, Muhammad , p. 68. 

2 The Kufan Qur'an reciter and not the later celebrated Sufi author of Tabaqat al-sufiyya and Haqa'iq al-tafslr. See Appendix 
below. 

3 This tradition is to be found in Nlsaburi, al-Mustadrak , vol. 4, p. 651. A section in brackets has been added by the edi- 
tor of the Dar al-Kutub al-Tlmiyya edition of Tustaris tafsir on the basis of the Mustadrak. However, none of the MSS 
has this addition. Moreover, there is another discrepancy with the printed text, in that all the MSS (Z515, f. 109a, F636, 
f. 51b and F3488, f. 287b) appear to have a-la wa-inna al-dunya qad adanat bi’l-firaq, instead of a-la wa-inna al-dunya 
qad adbarat. 

4 The words of this verse are repeated in verses 22, 32 and 40. 


215 


55 Al- Rahman 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:4] and taught him [coherent] speech (bayan). 1 
He said: 

This means: He has taught him [mankind] speech ( kalam ) which pertains to the spiritual self 
( nafs al-ruh), understanding of the intellect (fahm al- c aql), discernment of the heart (fitnat al- 
qalb), natural intuition ( dhihn al-khulq) and knowledge of the natural self {Him nafs al-tab c ). God 
granted Adam SSSI this [knowledge] through inspiration and then explained ( bayyana ) it to him. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:7] ...and has set up the balance, 

He said: 

Its inner meaning refers to commandments and prohibitions governing the bodily members 
[of a person]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:17] He is Lord of the two risings and Lord of the two settings. 

He said: 

Its inner meaning refers to the rising of the heart and its setting, the rising of the tongue and 
its setting, and the rising of the profession of His oneness, [whose] setting is the witnessing 
(; mushahada ) of Him. And He also says, [I swear] by the Lord of the risings and the settings 
[70:40], meaning the risings of the bodily members through sincerity {ikhlds), and their set- 
tings through subservience to people ( tb c a li’l-nds) inwardly and outwardly. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:19] He has loosed the two seas, and they meet . 2 
He said: 

One of these seas is the heart, which contains a variety of gems: the gem of faith, the gem of 
gnosis ( ma c rifa ), the gem of realising God’s oneness, the gem of contentment {rida), the gem of 
love ( mahabba ), the gem of longing ( shawq ), the gem of sorrow ( huzn ), the gem of neediness 
[for God] ifaqr), and other [gems]. The other sea is the self {nafs). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:20] Between them is a barrier [that] they do not overstep. 

This is divine protection ( Hsma ) and divinely-bestowed success ( tawftq ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:46] But for whosoever feared the standing [before] their Lord, there will be two gardens, 


1 On the word bayan, see above p. 32, n. 105. 

2 In his Jam f al-bayan, Tabari presents a few possible interpretations of what the two seas might be, such as one sea being 
the Mediterranean Sea (Bahr al-Rum) and the other, the Persian Gulf (Bahr al-Fars). However, Tabari prefers the view 

given in the majority of traditions that the two seas are the earthly and heavenly seas (bahr al-ard wa-bahr al-samd 3 ). 


21 6 


55 Al-Rahman 


Labld 3 said: 

[Such a one] was on the point of [committing] a transgression, but then recalled the time when 
he will stand before God, Exalted is He, on the Day of Reckoning and refrained from that. 

I heard [the story of] a young man during the era of the caliphate of c Umar 4k who was endowed 
with beauty and had a striking appearance. c Umar was impressed with the young man and 
sensed that much good [would come] from him. One day the youth encountered a woman to 
whom he took a fancy. However, as soon as he was on the point of committing an indecent act, 
the divine protection descended upon him and he fell down on his face in a swoon. The woman 
then carried him to his house. He had a father who was an old man and it was his wont when 
evening fell to sit in front of his door waiting for his son’s return. When the old man saw him 
he also fell into a swoon. When he regained his senses he asked his son about his condition. 
So he recounted the story, but then suddenly yelled with one cry and fell down dead. After he 
was buried c Umar 4> stood up and recited over his grave: But for whosoever feared the standing 
[before ] their Lord, there will be two gardens, upon which he [the young man] cried to him from 
the grave, ‘God has given them to me and has granted me a third along with them.’ 4 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:56] In them are maidens of restrained glances... 

He said: 

That is, they lower their gaze to all except their husbands. Thus whoever restrains his glances 
in this world from that which is forbidden and dubious, and from sensual delights and their 
attraction, will find that God grants him in Paradise maidens restraining their glances just as 
He has promised. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[55:72] Houris, secluded in pavilions. 

That is, kept in seclusion in pavilions. It was related from Muhammad b. Sawwar, on the author- 
ity of his chain of transmission, that Abu Musa al- AslTari 4b related that the Prophet M said, 
‘Verily the believer will have in Paradise a pavilion made of white pearl, thirty miles in length, 
in which there are many inhabitants but they do not see one another.’ 5 



3 Perhaps this is Abu c Aqil b. Rabi c a Labld (d. 40/661). The editor of the Dar al-Kutub al- c Ilmiyya edition notes, however, 
that this tradition is attributed to Mujahid in Ahmad b. Hanbals Kitab al-Warct (Beirut, 1983), p. 115. 

4 A similar tradition is related in Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-Tman , vol. 1, p. 468. 

5 Muslim, Sahih, ‘Kitab al-Janna; Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab Tafslr al- Qur'an. 


217 


5 6 Al-Waqi c a 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[56:3] It will be abasing [sotne], exalting [others]. 

He said: 

This means: on the Day of Resurrection some people will be brought low by their false claims 
(da c dwd), and some people will be raised high by their realities (haqddq). 1 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[56:7] you will be three kinds (azwaj). 

He said: 

That is to say, three different groups (firaq ). 

[56:8] Those of the right [hand], what of those of the right [hand]? 

This means those who are given the book [of deeds] in their right hand. 2 
[56:9] And those of the left hand, what of those of the left [hand]? 

This means those who are given the book [of deeds] in their left hand. 

[56:10] And the foremost, the foremost. 

He said: 

They are those for whom Gods election ( ikhtiydr ) and special friendship ( wildya ) preceded 
them before they were even brought into existence. The ones who are brought near [to God] 
[56:11] are in stations of proximity ( manazil al-qurb ), and [enjoy] the ease of intimacy (rawh 
al-uns). They are the ones who were the foremost ( sabaqu ) in this life. The prophets were the 
foremost in having faith in God; the veracious ( siddiqun ) and martyrs ( shuhada 2 ) among the 
Companions and others were the foremost in having faith in the prophets. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[56:13] a multitude from the former [generations], 3 
He said: 

That is, a group of those of old ( awwalun ), and they are the people of gnosis ( ma c rifa ) [from 
the past]. 

[56:40] and a few from later ones. 

They are those who believed in Muhammad M and in all the messengers and books. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[56:25] They will not hear therein any vain talk or any sinful words. 


1 i.e. that which they have truly realised. 

2 Tustarl discusses each persons being given the book of their deeds at the Resurrection, either in their right hand or their 
left, below, for example in his commentary on 69:19, 25 and 32. 

3 These words occur again in verse 39. 


218 


S 6 Al-Waqi c a 


He said: 

It is in no way a scene of frivolity ( laghw ), nor is it a place of sin (ithm), for it is a place which has 
been sanctified with [divine] lights for the holy ( muqaddasun ) among His servants. Indeed, it is 
what has become manifest from them and upon them that makes them worthy of that station. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[56:83] Why then, when it reaches the dying man’s throat, 

That is, his soul reaches the throat, while he is in a state of bewilderment ( mutahayyir ), as he 
does not know what will become of him. 

Similarly, it was related of Masruq b. al-Ajda c that he wept while he was dying and when his 
weeping intensified, he was asked, ‘What makes you weep?’ He replied, ‘How can I not weep 
when it is a matter of an hour and then I do not know where I will be taken.’ 

[56:88] Thus if he be of those brought near, 

By which is meant the prophets, the martyrs and the virtuous ( salihun ), of whom some are 
superior in rank to others. Their stations in nearness [to God] are according to the degree of 
proximity of their hearts to the gnosis ( maTifa ) of God, Exalted is He. 

[56:89] then repose and a goodly provision and a garden of bliss, 

in Paradise. Abu al- c Aliya said regarding this verse, ‘Not one of these men would leave this 
world until he had been brought a sprig from the fragrant herb ( rayhdn ) of Paradise, 4 and given 
a whiff of it, then he would die, his spirit flowing into it [Paradise].’ 

[56:90] and if he be of those of the right [hand], 

He said: 

By which is meant those who realise God’s oneness ( muwahhidun ). The outcome ( c aqiba ) will 
be theirs, 5 for they were God’s faithful servants who delivered the trust ( amana ), 6 namely, that 
which He has commanded and prohibited. Those who followed in excellence ( ihsan ) did not 
commit any transgressions nor did they make any slips, so they became secure from the fear 
( khawf) and terror ( hawl ) which comes to [others]. 



4 Usually said to be basil, which indeed bears the name rayhdn in Arabic. 

5 i.e. they will be the winners that day, the Day of Resurrection. 

6 This is probably an allusion to 33:72: We offered the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains, but they refused 
to carry it; and man carried it. The trust (amana) is traditionally interpreted to mean obedience (ta c a) and carrying out 
the obligatory duties ( fara'id ) prescribed by religion, as may be seen in many of the traditions included by Tabari in his 
Jami c al-bayan, and this is how Tustari has understood it here. According to Qushayrl (Lataff, vol. 3, p. 173), amana is 
upholding what is obligatory according to the principles ( usul ) and applications (/urw c ) [of fiqh], or it is tawhid in faith 
(' aqdan ) and keeping the limits (hifz al-hudud) in endeavours ( jahdan ). Maybudi, however, interprets the trust to be 
love, for which see Kashf al-asrar, vol. 8, p. 101. 


219 


57 Al-Hadid 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:3] He is the First and the Last... 

He said: 

The greatest name of God is alluded to in six verses at the beginning of Surat al-Hadld start- 
ing from the verse: He is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden. The significance 
(ma c nd) of the names ( asmd J ) is none other than gnosis ( ma c rifa ) of the One who is named 
( musammd ), and the significance of worship (Hbdda) is none other than gnosis of the One 
who is worshipped ( mdbud ).' The meaning of the Manifest (al-Zahir) is the One who is mani- 
fest in His exaltedness ( c uluww ), omnipotence ( qudra ) and coerciveness ( qahr ). The Hidden 
(al-Batin) is the One who knows the hidden thoughts (damaHr) and stirrings ( harakat ) that 
are concealed within hearts. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:4] ...He knows what enters the earth... 

He said: 

[In] the inner meaning of the verse, the earth is the natural self ( nafs al-tabf, and thus He knows, 
among the things which enter it [the natural self], that which is wholesome ( salah ) or corrupt 
( fasdd ) for the heart; 1 2 and what issues from it, in the way of diverse acts of obedience (funun 
al-td c dt), the traces and marks of which are clearly seen upon the bodily members; and what 
comes down from Heaven, Gods codes of fair conduct ( adab ) towards Him which [descend] 
to it; and what ascends to it, the beautiful scents and remembrance of Him that ascend to God. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:6] He makes the night pass into the day... 

He said: 

The inner meaning of the verse is that the night is the natural self (nafs al-tabf and the day is 
the spiritual self (nafs al-ruh). If God, Exalted is He, wishes good for His servant, He reconciles 
and brings together his natural self and his spiritual self through the perpetuation of [His] 
remembrance (dhikr), and makes this manifest in the corresponding lights of humble submis- 
sion ( khushu c ) [to God]. 3 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:7] Believe in God and His Messenger, and expend out of that which He caused to come down 
to you... 


1 Translating bi’l-maFud on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 111a, F638, f. 52b and F3488, f. 290a, instead of fi’l-’ubudiyya 
in the published edition. 

2 That is, reading li’l-qalb, according to MS F638, f. 52b. The other MSS (Z5125, f. 111a and F3488, f. 290b) and the printed 
edition have al-qalb. 

3 On this doctrine see above, IT, pp. xxxix-xl. 


220 


57 Al-Hadld 


He said: 

That is, what you inherited from your forefathers {abet'), and your possessions ( mulk ). So give of 
what your natural selves enjoy from [this] world, in the cause of obeying Him and His Messenger. 
For those of you who believe and expend their whole lives in the ways that God commanded 
that they should expend them, will have a great reward, namely, to abide with the Everlasting 
( al-Bdqi ) in His Garden, [enjoying] His good pleasure ( rida ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:11] Who is he that will lend God a goodly loan (qardan hasana)...? 

He said: 

God granted His servants His favour, and then He asked them to make Him a goodly loan. The 
goodly loan [for which He asks] is the witnessing of Him ( mushahadat ), just as the Prophet M 
said: ‘Worship God as if you see Him. . ,’ 4 

The following saying is narrated from Abu Hazim: ‘Verily, [in this world] there is little market 
for the merchandise of the Hereafter, so ask and hope for more slow seasons [to increase your 
stock], for when the day for spending arrives, you will not be able to build it up either by a 
little or a lot. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:12] [Mention] the Day when you will see the believing men and believing women, with their 
light shining forth before them and to their right... 

He said: 

The light of the believer shines forth before him, and he inspires awe in the hearts of the people 
of conformity {muwdfiqun) and the people of opposition ( mukhalifun ) alike. The one who 
conforms reveres him and his standing {sha'n), and the one who opposes holds him in awe and 
fears him. This is the light which God made for His friends and it does not appear in anyone 
unless he has submitted and humbled himself to Him. It belongs to the light of faith. Then He 
described the hypocrites, in their saying to them [the believers] : 

[57:13] ...‘Wait for us, that we may glean something of your light...’ 

so that we can cross the Traverse ( al-Sirdt ) with you, for we are in darkness. 5 The angels will 
reply to them, ‘Go back and seek light by means of the intellects ( c uqul ) you used to manage 
your affairs in your life in the world.’ They turn back to the rear, but then God places a wall 
between themselves and their own intellects, and He veils from them the right choice, so they 
do not reach the path of guidance. Then when they end up crossing the Traverse they fall into 
Hell, abiding there forever. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:15] So on this day no ransom will be taken from you... 

That is, no ransom will be accepted for your souls. 

Ibn Salim said: 

I served Sahl b. c Abd Allah for sixty years and he did not change in terms of his practice of 
remembrance or anything else. 6 Then on the last day of his life a man recited the verse before 
him, So on this day no ransom will be taken from you, and I saw him tremble and sway to the 
point where he almost fell down. When he recovered his state of sobriety ( sahw ), I asked him 
about what had passed, saying, ‘Nothing has happened like this during my time with you.’ He 

4 The hadith continues: *. . .for if you see Him not He surely sees you.’ This is part of the Gabriel hadith which was discussed 
above, in IT, p. lviii, n. 265. On the levels of islam , iman and ihsan, see also Tustaris commentary on 14:24. 

5 On the Traverse ( al-Sirat ) p. 135, n. 1. 

6 A similar passage is cited in Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma\ the beginning of which has the following variation, as translated 
by Bowering: ‘(Muhammad b. Salim) recalls: “I served Sahl for sixty years, yet I did not see him change while listening 
(kana yasmefu) to (a repetitive formula of Gods) commemoration ( dhikr ), to Qur'an recital or any other recitation. . 
See Sarraj, Kitab al-Luma c , p. 292, Bowering, Mystical Vision , p. 72. 


221 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


replied, ‘Yes I know, my dear friend! Indeed I have become weak.’ So I asked, ‘What is the 
condition [that denotes] a strong state ( quwwat al-hal)?’ He replied, ‘There is no influx [from 
above] ( wdrid ) that comes over him without his absorbing it through his strength. Whoever 
acts in this way will not be changed by the influxes [of grace] ( wdridat ) that he receives, how- 
ever strong they may be.’ 

He also used to say, ‘My state during [ritual] prayer (salat) is the same as that before the com- 
mencement of the prayer.’ This is because he would keep watch over his heart and keep God, 
Exalted is He, before his eyes with his innermost secret ( sirr ) before commencing the prayer, 
and consequently he would stand for prayer with the presence of his heart ( hudur qalbihi) and 
the collectedness of his spiritual energy (janf himmatihi ). 7 8 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:16] Is it not time for those who believe to humble their hearts for the remembrance of God...? 

He said: 

Is the time not ripe for them to feel humbled when they listen to the Reminder [the Qur'an], 
and witness what is promised and what is warned of, in a contemplative witnessing of the 
unseen ( mushahadat al-ghayb )? 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:16] ...so their hearts became hardened... 

He said: 

That is, through the pursuit of lust. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:20] Know that the life of this world is merely play and diversion... 

He said: 

The world ( dunya ) is a sleeping soul ( nafs nadma), and the Hereafter is a soul awake ( nafs 
yaqzdna). 

It was asked, ‘What is the way to salvation from it [the life of this world]?’ He replied: 

The root of this [salvation] is knowledge (dim) and its fruit is opposing one’s desire (hawa) by 
avoiding what is forbidden (manahi). Then it is the soul’s endurance (mukabadat al-nafs) in 
fulfilling the divine commandments, [in a state of] purity (tahara) from every kind of defile- 
ment (adnas). This will bring about ease in worship, and thereafter he will abide in the stations 
of the worshippers. Then God will let him experience that which His friends ( awliya ') and elect 
( asfiya ') experienced, which is the rank of tasting (madhaq). a 

He [Abu Bakr al-Sijzi] said, ‘He [Sahl] then mentioned to us the following’: 

One day Abraham 3s8, Friend of the Lord of Mercy, was in the desert on an extremely hot day, 
and he was afflicted with great thirst. He saw an Abyssinian man tending some camels, so he 
asked: ‘Do you have any water?’ He replied, ‘O Abraham, what do you prefer: water or milk?’ 
He said: ‘Water.’ 


7 Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 72, cites an almost identical passage from Sarraj s Kitab al-Luma c , except that the explanation 
takes the form of a comment by Sarraj: “‘My state ( hal ) during ritual prayer (salat) and before entering ritual prayer is 
one and the same”. Sarraj comments, ‘He watched over his heart ( qalb ) and kept God before his eyes ( yuraqibu Allah ) 
with his inmost being (sirr) before he entered the ritual prayer (salat). Then he performed the ritual prayer with the 
presence of his heart (hudur qalbihi) and the collectedness of his energy (jam c himmatihi). He entered into ritual prayer 
with the intention (ma c na) he had before the prayer, so that his state (hal) during prayer was the same as his state before 
the prayer. Thus, his state before and after the auditive experience (sama c ) was the very same thing.’ See Sarraj, Kitab 
al-Luma c , p. 293, trans. Bowering, Mystical Vision, p. 72. 

8 Note that the verbal root dh-w-q may be used both for experiencing and tasting, and Sufis often use the term dhawq 
(here madhaq ) for a mystical experience. 


222 


57 Al-Hadid 


He [Sahl] continued: 

He then struck a rock with his foot upon which water gushed forth. Abraham $43 was amazed, 
so God said to Abraham, through inspiration, ‘If that Abyssinian man had asked Me to remove 
the heavens and earth from existence I would have removed them.’ So he [Abraham] asked, 
‘Why is that, O Lord?’ He replied, ‘It is because he does not desire anything from the world or 
the Hereafter except Me.’ 9 
‘Amir b. c Abd al-Qays said, 

I have found the world to comprise four main properties ( khisal ). As for two of these, namely, 
the [desire for] women and the [desire] to amass wealth, my soul ( nafs ) has renounced them 
willingly. However, as for the other two, there is no doing without them, though I try to keep 
them away from me as much as I can; these are sleep and food. 10 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[57:23] So that you may not grieve over what escapes you (nor exult at what He has given you)... 
He said: 

In this verse there is guidance to the state of contentment in both adversity ( shidda ) and ease 
( rakhcb ). 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[57:27] ...Butasformonasticism, they invented it... 

He said: 

Monasticism ( rahbaniyya ) is derived from the word rahha which means fear. It refers to adher- 
ence to [a state of] fear without any earnest desire (1 tamd ). We had not prescribed it for them, 
that is, We did not demand that they worship Us in that way. 11 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[57:28] ...and He will give you a twofold portion of His mercy... 

He said: 

That is, the r secret of 1 mercy f sirr'al-rahma) ,' 2 and the essence of mercy ( c ayn al-rahma ). [Its] 
secret is the secret of gnosis ( sirr al-maPifa). [Its] essence is the essence of obedience to God 
and His Messenger. 



9 This is an example of wasila, which Tustari mentions in his commentary on 32:16. On waslla see also 48:4 and p. 155, n. 
4 and p. 196, n. 3. 

10 Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 2, pp. 90-1; Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 5, p. 39; idem., Kitab al-Zuhd al-kabir, vol. 2, 
pp. 63-4. 

11 Note that above in his commentary on 11:75 and 17:57, Tustari, like other Sufis, strongly advocates the combining of fear 
(khawf) and hope (raja'), while here he is using the word tama c meaning ‘desiring something eagerly’ or ‘earnestly’. In 
the Qur'an the pairs khawf and tamtf are paired in 7:56; 13:12; 30:24 and 32:16. See also, p. 93, n. 13. 

12 The word sirr appears in all three MSS: Z515, f. 111b, F638, f. 52b and F3488, f. 292b. 


223 


58 Al-Mujadila 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 58 : 10 ] Secret conversations are [ the work of] Satan... 

He said: 

A secret conversation ( najwd ) is what the Enemy casts into the natural self ( nafs al-tabf , just 
as the Prophet M said, ‘There is a touch [of madness] ( lamma ) that comes from the angels and 
a touch [of madness] that comes from Satan.’ 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[ 58 : 9 ] ...but talk secretly in righteousness and mindfulness of God ... 1 
He said: 

[Talk secretly] in remembering God, reciting the Qur an, and commanding what is right and 
forbidding what is wrong. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 58 : 22 ] You will not find a people who believe in God and the Last Day loving those who oppose 
God and His Messenger, even were they to be their fathers... 

He [Sahl] said: 

No person whose faith is sound enjoys the company of the innovator ( mubtadif , nor does he 
comply with him, eat with him, drink with him or keep his company. Rather, he shows him 
hostility and loathing from himself. On the other hand, whoever fawns over an innovator will 
have the sweetness of [following] the Prophet’s ways (sunan) removed from him by God, and 
whoever shows love for an innovator, seeking honour in this world and some 1 worldy 1 gain 
( [aradan r minhd 1 ), 2 will find that God humiliates him with that honour and impoverishes him 
through that wealth. Moreover, whoever jokes with an innovator will find that God removes 
the light of faith from his heart. As for the one who doubts this, let him try it for himself. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 58 : 22 ] ...[For] those, He has inscribed faith upon their hearts and reinforced them with a spirit 
from Him... 

He said: 

God has inscribed faith upon the hearts of His friends in lines ( suturan ). The first line is the 
profession of God’s oneness ( tawhid ), the second, gnosis ( madrifa ), the third, veracity ( sidq ), 
the fourth, rectitude ( istiqdma ), the fifth, confidence ( thiqa ), the sixth, reliance ( ftimad ) and 
the seventh, trust ( tawakkul ). Furthermore, this writing is the work of God (fid Allah), not the 
work of the servant (fid al-abd ). The work of the servant with regard to faith is in the outward 
aspect of Islam, and what outwardly appears from him, whereas its inner [reality] is the work 
of God, Exalted is He. 


1 The first part of this verse reads: O you who believe, if you do talk in secret, then do not talk in secret sinfully and in 
disobedience to the Messenger . . . 

2 lit. some gain or share from it [the world] * All the MSS have minhd following the word c aradan: Z515, f. 112a, F638, f. 53b 
and F3488, f. 292b. 


224 


$8 Al-Mujadila 


He also said: 

The inscription on the heart is the gift of faith ( mawhibat al-lmdn) which God bestows upon 
them before creating them in loins and wombs. Then He reveals a glimpse of the light in the heart, 
and then He lifts the veil from it, so that through the blessing of that writing ( barakat al-kitaba ) 
and the light of faith ( nur al-lmdn) they can behold things of the unseen ( mughayyabdt ). 3 
And he said: 

The life of the spirit ( haydt al-ruh ) is in the remembrance [of God] ( dhikr ), the life of remem- 
brance is in the one who remembers ( dhakir ), and the life of the one who remembers is in the 
One who is remembered ( madhkur ) . God was pleased with them because of the sincerity they 
devoted towards Him in their works, and they were pleased with Him due to the abundant 
reward He granted them for their works. 

[58:22] ...They are the confederates of God... 

Confederates (hizb) means followers ( shVa ). They are the Substitutes ( abdal ), and higher [in 
rank still] are the veracious ( siddiqun ). 4 Truly it is the party of God who will be successful, that is, 
they are the heirs to the secrets of their [the prophets’] sciences and are able to see ( mushrifun ) 
the meanings of their beginning Through to 1 their end (ibtida’ihim r ild 1 intihdHhim ). 5 



3 That is according to MSS F638, f. 54a and F3488, f. 293a, which have absiru bi-barakat al-kitaba. However, Z515, f. 113b 
has absiru bi-barakatihi al-kitaba..., while Sulami has hatta absara (sing.) bi-barakat al-kitab. Bowering, however, has: 
‘so that they, by His blessing, may behold the hidden ( mughayyabdt ) writing, and light of faith ( nur al-iman)\ See Mystical 
Vision, p. 220. 

4 On the abdal see above p. 89, n. 5. 

5 All MSS have the addition of ild between ibtida'ihim and intihaHhim: Z515, f. 113b, F638, f. 54a and F3488, f. 293a. MS 
Z515 only has mushrifun instead of mushriqun, and that is what we have translated here. 


225 


59 Al-Hashr 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[59:2] ...Their homes were destroyed at their own hands and at the hands of the believers ... 1 
He said: 

That is, they ruined their hearts and invalidated their works by following innovations and 
abandoning the path of following the prophets. And the hands of the believers, that is, despite 
being side by side with the believers, witnessing them and sitting with them, they were deprived 
of their blessings. So take heed, O you who have eyes, that God leads astray whomever He will 
[35:8], through abandonment ( khidhlan ), and guides whomever He will [35:8], through His 
assistance (maxima), and you have no influence in the matter. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[59:7] ...And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain from 
it. . . 

He said: 

The principles of our school are three: consuming what is legitimate; following the example of 
the Messenger H in his character ( akhldq ) and actions ( afdl ), and sincerity of intention ( ikhlds 
al-niya ) in all works. 2 
He then said: 

Impose upon yourselves three things, for the best of [all] that is in this world and the Hereafter 
is contained within them: keeping [your self] close to [lit. making it consort with, suhbatuha] 
His commandments and prohibitions by adherence to the Sunna; establishing within it the 
attestation of God’s oneness, which [brings about] certainty ( yaqin ), [and imposing upon it] 
knowledge ( c ilm ), through which the spirit attains union (fihi ittisdl al-ruh ). The one who pos- 
sesses these three [traits] is more knowledgeable about what is in the earth’s core than about what 
is on its surface, 3 and he regards the Hereafter more than he regards this world. Furthermore, 
he is better known to the angels in heaven than he is on earth to his own family and relatives. 
He was asked: ‘What is the knowledge through which the spirit attains union?’ [He replied]: 

It is the knowledge that God is taking care of it, and being contented [with that]. 4 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[59:9] ■■ - They give preference to others over themselves, even if they be in poverty (khasasa )... 5 


1 In its outer meaning the verse, and much of this sura , is said to refer to the Jewish tribe of Banu al-Nadir, living in 
Medina, who had originally agreed with the Prophet that they would remain neutral, but later made an alliance with 
the Meccans and broke their agreements with the Muslims, even attempting to kill the Prophet. Eventually they were 
forced to leave Medina, some going to Syria and some to Khaybar. 

2 Compare with the commentary on Sura 9:71 above. 

3 i.e. more knowledgeable of the inner world than the outer world. 

4 Or alternatively the masculine pronoun might here be referring to an unspecified person rather than to the spirit, which 
we might translate: ‘knowing that God is taking care of him. . 

5 This verse describes the situation of those who were already resident in Medina, known as the Ansariyyun (helpers), 
because they assisted and supported the Muslim Emigrants when they came to the city. 


226 


59 Al-Hashr 


He said: 

That is, in hunger ( majcfa ) and poverty (faqr ). The Arabs say a person is makhsus when he is 
poor (faqir ). Thus they gave preference to the good pleasure of God over their own desires. 
The act of giving preference to others over yourself ( Ithar ) is the testimony ( shahid ) of love. 
The saying has been related from Wuhayb b. al- Ward: ‘God, Exalted is He, says, “By My might, 
greatness and majesty, there is no servant who gives preference to My desire over his own desire, 
without My decreasing his worries, returning to him what he has lost, removing want from his 
heart, placing richness before his eyes, and trading in his interest through every trader. And 
by My might and majesty, there is no servant who gives preference to his own desire over My 
desire, without My increasing his worries, keeping him at a distance from what he has lost, 
removing richness from his heart and placing poverty before his eyes, and then I care not in 
which valley he may perish.’” 6 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[59 : 9] . ..Whoever is saved from the avarice (shuhh) of his own soul — they are the successful. 

He said: 

That is, he who is saved from the covetousness ( hirs ) of his self and its miserliness ( bakhl ) in 
everything except God and His remembrance, 7 will abide with God, enjoying a good life, a 
good life. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[59:14] ...You [would] suppose them to be together, but their hearts are disunited... 

He said: 

The people of truth are united and the people of falsehood are forever divided. And even 
though they be united in body and agree outwardly, God has said: You [would] suppose them 
to be altogether, but their hearts are disunited. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[59:18] O you who believe, be mindful of God, and let every soul consider what it has sent ahead 
for tomorrow... 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, asks the servant concerning [these three] : that which he owes to his self 
( haqq nafsihi), that which he owes to the knowledge ( c ilm ) that is between him and his Lord, 
and that which he owes to the intellect ( c aql ). Let whoever has the ability fulfil what he owes to 
his self and what he owes to the knowledge which is between him and his Lord, by considering 
well the outcome of his affairs. 

It was related of Hasan that he said, ‘When a son of Adam [i.e. a human being] dies, the children 
of Adam [the other human beings] ask, ‘What has he left behind?’ But the angels ask, ‘What 
has he sent ahead?’ 8 
His words: 

[59:19] And do not be like those who forget God... 

while committing sins, ...so that He makes them forget. God [makes them forget] to apologise 
( ftidhar ) and seek repentance ( tawba ). 

He said: 

Any servant who sins and does not repent, [will find] that sin leading him on to another sin, 
which will cause him to forget the former sin. On the other hand, any servant who does a good 


6 Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul , vol. 4, p. 25-6; Ibn al-Jawzi, Sifat al-safwa , p. 220; Isfaham, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 8, p. 147. 

7 Being miserly in relation to God may mean being reluctant to give of ones time, energy, wealth, etc. to other than God 
and His remembrance, and this is the only acceptable form of miserliness. 

8 That is, they are asking what good or bad deeds he has put in store for himself in the Hereafter. 


227 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


deed [will find] that leading him to another good deed, upon which his intellect will perceive 
the deficiency of the former good deed, so that he may repent for the deficiency in his past 
good deeds, even if they were pure and sound. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[59:22] (He is)...Knower of the unseen and the visible... 

He said: 

The unseen (ghayb) is that which is secret ( sirr ) and the visible (shahada) is that which is open 
[to all] ( c alaniyya ). He also said. Exalted is He: (He is)...Knower of the unseen and the visible 
[meaning] : He is the One who has full knowledge of this world and the Hereafter. 

But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



228 


6o Al-Mumtahana 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[60:1] O you who believe, do not take My enemy and your enemy as friends. . . 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, has warned the believers not to take as friends other than those whom 
God and His Messenger have befriended. Indeed, God, Exalted is He, is not [even] pleased 
r when one who is His friend 11 depends upon [another who is] His friend, so how will it be 
when he depends on [one who is] His enemy? Furthermore, a person who engages his heart 
in that which does not concern him relating to his Hereafter gains an enemy, so how will it be 
concerning some other [affair that does not concern him]? 

And a person who covets ( tama c a ) the Hereafter along with a desire for something lawful (halal) 
of this world is deluded ( makhduf , so how will it be for someone who desires something 
unlawful ( haram )? 

Anyone’s act that is not done in opposition ( mukhalafa ), 1 2 or with endurance ( mukabada ), or 
out of preferring others over oneself ( ithar ), will be an act of ostentation ( riya ’). 

He was asked the meaning of this. He replied: 

Opposition is the abandonment of what is forbidden, and for sure, abandoning a particle of 
what God has forbidden is more meritorious than worshipping God, Exalted is He, for your 
whole life. To show endurance is to fulfil God’s commandments, while to prefer others over 
oneself is to prefer God above all that is other than Him. 

Furthermore, through opposition they were dispossessed of their selves, but through endur- 
ance they were dispossessed of their desires, so that their passions ( shahawdt ) were expressed 
through acts of obedience ( td c dt ); and by giving preference to others over themselves (ithar), 
they attained His love and good pleasure. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[60:7] ...and God is Forgiving, Merciful. 

He said: 

He is Forgiving of your past sins through [accepting your] repentance ( tawba ), and Merciful, 
because He protects you from falling into the same kind of transgression during what remains 
of your life. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[60:10] ...And do not hold on to the [conjugal] ties of disbelieving women... 


1 All MSS (Z515, f. 115a, F638, f. 54b and F3488, f. 294b) have the addition of man waliyaLlah. 

2 Opposition here has the positive meaning of opposing the lower self ( nafs ) as will be seen in Tustarl s explanation below. 
It will be recalled that in some contexts mukhalafa was used with a negative meaning, often when placed in contradis- 
tinction to conformity ( muwafaqa ). See, for example, the commentary on 28:24. 


229 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


He said: 

Do not agree with the people of innovations concerning anything which issues from their 
whims ( ahwa or opinions (an?). 3 



3 Note the association which Tustari has made between innovation ( bid c a ) and peoples whims or desires ( ahwa J ). This is 
also emphasised elsewhere in Tustari s Tafslr, for example in his commentary on 4:171 and 6:159. 


230 


61 Al-SafF 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 61 : 2 ] You who believe, why do you say [ you will do] what you do not do? 

[Sahl] said: 

Truly God warns His servants about making claims that they do not substantiate. Such claims 
require of [the servant] that from this day on he fulfil one of the rights of God, which is that 
he becomes free of ( bard’a ), and repents from ( tawba ), every sin that he has committed. 

[The one who makes claims] says ‘I will act tomorrow’, but there is no one who makes a claim 
without overlooking the right of God from two points of view: both outwardly and inwardly. 
The one who makes claims ( mudddi ) has no fear; the one who has no fear is not safe ( amin ); 
and the one who is not safe is one who has not acquainted himself with the recompense (jaza ’). 
He also said: 

Those who desire the Hereafter are many. However, there are but two [kinds of] servant whose 
sufficiency ( kifdya ) God takes care of: [one is] the simple servant who is nonetheless sincere in 
his quest, puts his trust in God ( mutawakkil ), and is true to Him; his Master will suffice him 
and take care of all of his affairs. The other is the servant who is knowledgeable about God, 
His days, 1 His commandments and His prohibitions; God will suffice him with all he needs 
in this world and, when he passes on to the Hereafter, r he will have ease (istirdha) 1 . 2 God will 
pay no attention to any other than these two [kinds of servant], because the others claimed 
what they did not have. 

Ibn c Ayniyya said concerning this verse: 

Why do you speak about a matter which does not concern you, for you do not know whether 
you will do that or not. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 61 : 8 ] They desire to extinguish the light of God with their mouths... 

This means: with their tongues they denied the proof ( hujja ) of the Prophet that appeared to 
them, and with their souls they turned away from it. But God bound ( qayyada ) some souls 3 to 
accept him, namely, those whom He brought into existence under the decree of eternal bliss, 
and He adorned some hearts with the lights of His gnosis ( mdrifa ), and the secrets of its light 
by virtue of firm belief ( tasdiq ). So they spent freely of their whole being ( muhaj ) and their 
possessions for Him, like al-Siddlq and al-Faruq, and the other honourable Companions, 4s>. 4 


1 On ayyam Allah see above p. 128, n. 1. 

2 The word istirdha appears after idha sara ilal-akhira in only MS F638, f. 55a. However, it makes more sense to include it, 
since firstly, Tustari is contrasting this servants situation in this world with his situation in the Hereafter, and secondly 
because Tustari is making the point in general that God has nothing to do with the false claimants, not specifically in 
the Hereafter. 

3 Through His pre-eternal decree — Bowering translates this as ‘He foreordained some. . .’ 

4 Al-Siddlq (‘the Veracious’) is the honorary title which was conferred on Abu Bakr, the first caliph, and al-Faruq (‘the 
one who distinguishes truth from falsehood’) is an honorary title by which c Umar b. c Abd al- c Aziz, the second caliph of 
Islam, is known. 


231 


Tafslr al-Tustarl 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[61:14] You who believe, be helpers of God... 

He said: 

That is, by accepting [that which comes] from Him, and heeding ( istimd c ) Him, and by obeying 
Him in what He has commanded you to do, and in what He has forbidden you from doing. 
But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



232 


62 Al-Jumu c a 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 62 : 2 ] It is He who sent to the unlettered [folk] a messenger from among them... 

He said: 

The unlettered are those who believed in Muhammad S and were connected to him through 
following ( ittibal ) him and emulating (iqtida’) him . 1 Whoever does not emulate him is not of 
his nation. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 62 : 3 ] And [to] others from among them who have not yet joined them... 

That is, those who came after him who believed in him and followed him, God will join with 
the first [generation of believers]. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 62 : 11 ] But when they see some opportunity for business or some amusement, they scatter off to- 
wards it... 

He said: 

God has informed [us] of the despicable nature and base aspiration of the one who is diverted 
from his Lord by something of this world or the Hereafter. For God made the way open for 
him and allowed him to call on Him in intimacy ( munajdt ), but he became preoccupied with 
that which is transient, and had no knowledge of the One who abides and will abide forever. 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 62 : 11 ] ...Say, ‘That which is with God is better than any amusement or commerce...’ 

He said: 

By this is meant: the abundant gifts and lasting delight which God has kept in reserve for you 
in the Hereafter is better than that which He gives you of this world. 



1 The term ‘unlettered people ( ummiyun ) denotes a nation or community who had not previously had a revealed scripture 
of their own. Umml can also mean ‘he who has no [prior] knowledge of the scriptures’ hence the term ummi, in relation 
to the Prophet Muhammad, does not necessarily mean illiterate in the modern sense of that word. 


233 


63 Al-Munafiqun 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[63:1] ...and God bears witness that the hypocrites truly are liars. 

He said: 

[This was] because they affirmed with their tongues what their hearts did not acknowledge. This 
is why He named them hypocrites. Whoever knows [the truth] with his heart and affirms it 
with his tongue, yet without any excuse does not perform with his bodily members ( bi-arkanihi ) 
that which God has made compulsory for him, is like Iblls, may God curse him, who knew it 
[the truth] and affirmed it, but did not act upon His commandments. 

He further said: 

Hypocrisy ( nifdq ) is of two kinds: [one is] a belief ( c aqd) held in the heart which is contradicted 
outwardly on the tongue, just as He has said, Exalted is He: They say with their tongues what 
is not in their hearts [48:11]; the other is the hypocrisy of the natural self ( nafs al-tab c ) towards 
the person to whom it belongs, and this was referred to by the Prophet H when he said, ‘The 
hidden association [idolatry] (shirk) 1 in my community is more hidden than the crawling of 
an ant across a boulder on a dark night.’ 2 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[63:9] O you who believe, do not let your wealth and your children distract you... 

from performing your religious duties on time. For whoever is distracted from the remem- 
brance of God or His service ( khidma ) by some phenomenon, or something for the sake of 
his lust ( shay'an li-shahwatihi ), 3 [if then] he experiences [thereby] exultation ( nashdt ) in his 
devotions, he is deluded ( makhduT ), save in [those religious duties] which God, Mighty and 
Majestic is He, accepts. 

It has been related that once [when he was ailing] Salman was visited by Sa c d b. Abi Waqqas. 
Salman wept, so Sa c d asked him, ‘What could be making you weep, O Abu c Abd Allah, when 
our Master the Messenger of God U was content with you when he died, and you will meet 
your companions again and will drink from his pool?’ 4 Salman said, ‘I do not weep out of fear 
of death or because of an avid attachment to the world, but rather because the Messenger of 
God #g enjoined on us a commitment and said: “Let the provision that one of you takes from 
this world be like the victuals a rider [traveller] ( rakib ) takes [for his journey].” 5 1 have all these 
cushions around me, but all the Prophet M had around him was his blanket, his washing ves- 
sel and a bowl for food.’ Sa c d said: ‘O Abu c Abd Allah! Enjoin on us a pledge to which we can 

1 That is, associating others with God, or ascribing partners to God. 

2 Nisaburi, al-Mustadrak , vol. 2, p. 319; Tirmidhi, Nawadir al-usul, vol. 4, p. 147; Mundhiri, al-Targhlb, vol. 4, p. 16. 

3 That is, following MS F638, f. 55b, which has aw shay'an, while the published edition has shay^an. MSS Z515, f. 116b and 
F3488, f. 266b have aw sababan. 

4 According to several ahadith, the Pool ( hawd ) is one of the blessings promised by God to the Prophet for his nation. 
In the section on the Pool in the Kitab Dhikr al-mawt of Ghazalis Iliya 3 c ulum al-din, he writes ‘It is our hope that God 
(Exalted is He!) will grant us to know of it in this world and to taste it in the next, for one of its qualities is that whoever 
drinks of it shall never thirst again.’ See trans. Winter, pp. 217-9, whence this extract was taken. 

5 Ibn Maja, Sunan, vol. 2, p. 1374; Nisaburi, al-Mustadrak , vol. 4, p. 353. 


234 


63 Al-Munafiqun 


commit ourselves after you have gone.’ He said: ‘O Sa c d! Remember God, Exalted is He, when 
you have a concern that worries you, when you are making a judgement and when you are 
about to make an oath .’ 6 

But God, Exalted is He, knows best what is correct. 



6 Bayhaqi, Shu c ab al-iman, vol. 7, pp. 305-6; Mundhiri, al-Targhib, vol. 4, pp. 79, 112. 


235 


6 4 Al-Taghabun 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[64:2] ...God is Seer (baslr) of what you do. 
r He said: 

r He is Seeing (basir) 11 if the act is compatible with ( wdfaqa ) [a person’s] nature ( tabf and 
disposition ( khilqa ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[64:14] O you who believe! Indeed among your spouses and your children are enemies to you, so 
beware of them... 

He said: 

Those among your spouses and children who induce you to the amassing of [the goods of this] 
world and reliance on them ( rukun ilayhd) are enemies to you. However, the one who prompts 
you to give of it and spend it [in a good cause], and guides you to be satisfied ( qanala ), and to 
put your trust in God ( tawakkul ) is not an enemy to you. 

The saying is related from Hasan: ‘O son of Adam! Do not be beguiled by the ferocious beasts 
around you, namely, your son, your wife, your relatives and your servant. As for your son, he 
is like a lion in his ferocity and force, and will certainly contend with you concerning what 
you possess. As for your wife, she is like a bitch with her growling and wagging of her tail, 
sometimes she is growling and at other times she is wagging her tail . 1 2 As for your relatives, by 
God, a dirham that falls to their share of your inheritance is dearer to them than your freeing 
of a slave. As for your servant, he is like a fox in trickery and theft. I say to you, son of Adam, 
fear God, and don’t break your back for their benefit, for you only have a few steps till you 
reach your next home, which is four cubits by two cubits . 3 Once they have put you there, they 
will disperse from you, then carry out their intentions, beat the drums [in celebration], and 
break into guffaws of laughter, while you are being taken to account ( muhdsab ) 4 for what is 
left in their hands. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[64:15] Your possessions and your children are only a test [for you]... 

He said: 

If God gives you wealth, you busy yourselves with how to keep it, and if He does not give you 
wealth, you busy yourselves with seeking after it. So when will you free yourself for Him? 


1 Added on the basis of MS F638, f. 55b. In the margin there is an addition of two words that are supposed to follow wdfaqa, 
but we have not been able to decipher them. Sulami has the same as has been translated above. 

2 This misogynistic remark has to be seen in the context of the rest of the rhetoric of this statement, which is equally 
hyperbolic. Otherwise this would present a negative view indeed of the ties of kinship! 

3 i.e. your grave. 

4 The MSS all have muhdsab /muhasib: Z515, f. 117a, F638, f. 56a and F3488, f. 297b, whereas the published edition has 
tuhasabu. The meaning, however, comes to the same. 


236 


65 Al-Talaq 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[65:2] ...By this is admonished whoever believes in God and the Last Day... 

He said: 

Only a believer accepts admonition. Moreover, an admonition only issues from a sound heart 
(qalb salim ) that is free of rancour (ghill ), hatred ( hiqd ), and envy ( hasad ), and in which there 
is no r self 1 interest ( hazz r li-nafsihi 1 ). 1 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[65:2, 3] ...God, He will make a way out (makhraj) /or whoever is mindful of Him, 0 and He will 

provide for him whence he never expected... 

He said: 

Mindfulness of God ( taqwd ) means disclaiming all power ( hawl ) and strength ( quwwa ) and 
all means ( asbdb ) other than [God] . By resorting to Him (ruju c ilayhi), [the servant] will find 
that God provides for him the means of acquitting himself of that which He has given him to 
do, without his circumventing it. [This He does by extending to him] His aid ( ma^una ) and 
protection ( Hsma ). Trust in God ( tawakkul ) is not admissible from anyone except those who 
are mindful of God, and mindfulness of God is not admissible except with trust in God. 2 For 
God, Exalted is He, said: and He will provide for him whence he never expected. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[65:3] ...And whoever puts his trust in God, He will suffice him... 

He said: 

That is, whoever entrusts his affairs to his Lord, will truly find that God, Exalted is He, suffices 
him in all that is necessary for him in both abodes. 3 

Abu al Hasan TJmar b. Wasil al- Anbari reported that he heard Sahl say: 

I entered the desert seventeen times without any provision (zdd) in the way of food and drink, 
or a money bag, or a drinking vessel or a staff, and whenever I needed something to eat, I would 
find it ready prepared for me. On one occasion as I was approaching the desert, a man gave me 
two genuine dirhams, so I put them in my pocket and proceeded on my way. I had walked for 
a while but did not find anything so I became weak. I started to say to myself, ‘What have you 
done that has resulted in that which you are accustomed to being withheld from you?’ Then 
I heard a voice from the air ( min al-hawd ) say, ‘Cast out what is in your pocket and what is in 
the unseen will come to you’, upon which I remembered that I had those two dirhams in my 
pocket, so I took them out and threw them away. I had not walked for long before I saw before 
me two pieces of bread spread with honey between them, [as fresh] as if they had just that 
moment come out of the oven. So from then on I returned to my former state [of tawakkul]. 

1 lit. in which he has no share for himself. The addition of li-nafsihi is made on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 117b, 
F638, f. 56a and F3488, f. 297b. 

2 This statement was also made in Tustarfs comment on Surat al-Nisa 3 verse 81 above. The saying is also to be found in 
Isfahan!, Hilyat al-awliya\ vol. 10, p. 192. 

3 i.e. in this world and the next. On tawakkul, see above Tustarfs commentary on 4:81. See also IT, pp. lv-lvi. 


237 


66 Al-Tahrlm 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[66:6] O you who believe! Guard yourselves and your families against a Fire. . . 

He said: 

That is, by obeying God and following the ways of the Prophet M ( sunan ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[66:8] Oyou who believe! Turn to God in sincere repentance... 

He said: 

Sincere repentance ( tawba nasuh ) means that a person does not return [to sin], for he has 
become one of the company of lovers ( ahibba ), and the lover does not embark upon anything 
which the Beloved dislikes. 

And he said: 

The mark of the one who is [truly] repentant (td’ib) is that there is not a place on earth, nor 
a place under the sky, where he is not solely attached to the Throne and to the Owner of the 
Throne till the time when he leaves this world . 1 In these times, I do not know of anyone not 
requiring repentance , 2 for the Angel of Death will not visit any one of us without his saying 
[to the angel], ‘Just allow me to do such-and-such a thing. Just let me do so-and-so. Let me 
breathe for just an hour more .’ 3 
Then he said: 

As for the one who is sincerely repentant (td’ib mukhlis), even though it might be for only an 
hour, or even for one breath before his death, it will be said [to him], ‘How quickly you have 
come forth with true [sincere repentance] ( sahihan)\ [Accordingly] we have come to you in 
the manner that you have come.’ 

His words: 

[66:8] ...on a day when God will not let the Prophet down... 

He said: 

He will not let him down concerning his nation, and will not refuse his intercession. Indeed God, 
Exalted is He, addressed the Prophet JS through inspiration saying, ‘If you so wish I can place 
the affairs of your nation ( amr ummatik ) in your charge.’ He replied, ‘O my Lord, You are better 
for them than me.’ So God, Exalted is He, said, ‘Then I will not let you down concerning them .’ 4 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[66:8] ...They will say, ‘Our Lord! Perfect our light for us...’ 


1 lit. ‘there is not a place where the earth bears him, nor a place where the sky shades him. . .’ All the MSS (Z515, f. 118a, 
F638, f. 55b and F3488, f. 293b) have tahmilahu instead of tuqillahu and innama instead of ilia in the published edition. 

2 lit. ‘I do not know that there should be anything less than repentance’. 

3 In other words, asking the Angel of Death to allow us more time to make amends for our shortcomings. 

4 This saying appears in Makki, Qut al-qulub, vol. 1, p. 376, where God says to the Prophet M, ‘If you so wish I can place 
the calling to account ( hisab ) of your nation in your charge. . .’ 


238 


66 Al-Tahrlm 


He said: 

The state of utter neediness ( iftiqar ) does not leave the believers, either in this life or the next. 
When they are in Paradise they are in greater need for Him even though they are in the abode 
of honour, security and richness, because of their yearning for the encounter ( liqa ') with Him. 
They say: ‘ Our Lord! Perfect our light for us, and grant us an encounter with You.’ This is because 
He is the Illuminator of [all] lights ( munawwir al-anwdr), and He is the Goal of every seeker. 



239 


6y Al-Mulk 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[67:1] Blessed be He in whose hand is all sovereignty... 

He said: 

That is, Exalted and Magnified is He above having likenesses, sons and rivals. He in whose 
hand is all sovereignty turns it over through His power ( hawl ) and strength ( quwwa ), grant- 
ing it to whomever He will and removing it from whomever He will, and He is All-Powerful 
( al-Qadir ) over it. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[67:1, 2] ...and He has power over all things, He who created death and life... 

He said: 

Death in this world is in disobedience, and life in the Hereafter is in obedience. It was for this 
reason that God, Exalted is He, addressed Moses 8SB saying, ‘O Moses, truly the first of my 
creatures to die was Iblls, may God’s curse be on him, because he disobeyed Me, and I count 
the one who disobeys Me as being from among the dead.’ 

Then he said: 

Death was created in the form of a handsome ram ( kabsh amlah). Whatever it passes by and 
[merely] catches a whiff of it, lives. It has been related in a tradition that the people of Paradise 
will fear death but the people of Hell will wish for death. It will be brought in the form of a hand- 
some ram. Then it will be said, ‘This is death, so behold what God is going to do with it.’ Then 
it will be turned on its side and slaughtered. Thereupon God, Exalted is He, will [re] make it in 
the form of a horse which will be set free to graze in Paradise. Whoever among the inhabitants 
of Paradise sees it will enjoy its company, without realising that it is death. 1 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[67:2] . . . that He may try you [ to see] which of you is best in conduct. . . 

He said: 

That is, I keep him from error and I purify him. If he is correct [in conduct] but not sincere, he 
will not be accepted; r while if he is sincere, but not correct [in conduct] he will not be accepted 
either 1 . 2 [He will not be accepted] until he is at the same time correct and sincere [in his con- 
duct]. The one who is sincere ( khalis ) is he who [lives] for God, Exalted is He, with the full 
intention ( irada ) of his heart, while the one who is correct ( sawdb ) is he who is on the path of 
the Sunna and [lives] in accordance with the Book. 

On another occasion he [Sahl] said: 

that He may try you [to see] which of you is best in conduct, that is, in putting your trust in 
Us, being satisfied with Us and journeying [to Us] after the renunciation of this world. Truly, 


1 i.e. the people of Paradise would fear death if they were aware of it. But since death has been turned into a freely grazing 
horse, they do not recognise it. The tradition is listed in Mundhiri, al-Targhib, vol. 4, pp. 316-8. 

2 Added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 119a, F638, f. 56b, F3488, f. 299b. 


240 


67 Al-Mulk 


mindfulness of God ( taqwd ) and certainty ( yaqin ) may be compared to the two scales of a 
balance, while trust ( tawakkul ) is the pointer, by which it indicates any increase or decrease. 3 
Then it was asked of him : ‘What is trust?’ 

He replied: 

It is to flee from trust, that is, from claiming to have trust. 4 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[67:2] ...And He is the Mighty, the Forgiving. 

He said: 

This means that He is the Unassailable ( al-Manf ) in His rule, the Wise ( al-Hakim ) in His 
management of His creation, and the Forgiving ( al-Ghafur ) with regard to the deficiency and 
faults which are apparent in His servants’ acts of obedience. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[67:12] Assuredly those who fear their Lord in secret... 

That is, they fear their Lord in their innermost secret ( sirr ), and they keep their innermost 
secret pure from other than Him. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[67:14] Would He who has created not know. . . ? 

Does the One who created the heart not know what He deposited within it, [whether it be] 
the attestation of His oneness ( tawhid ) or denial (juhud ). He is the Subtle, in His knowledge 
of the secrets concealed within the core of hearts ( lubb al-qulub), just as the Prophet M said, 
‘Truly within hearts there is a concealed secret ( sirr maknun ) pertaining to knowledge, which 
belongs to God, Exalted is He’; the Aware — He informs you of what is [hidden for] you in 
the unseen (Ji ghaybik ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[67:15] It is He who has made the earth tractable for you. . . 

He said: 

God, Exalted is He, created the souls ( unfits ) in a humble state. Whoever abases ( adhalla ) his self 
( nafs ) by opposing it, actually saves it from temptations, tribulations and trials. However, who- 
ever debases ( adhalla ) his self and follows it, will be brought to humiliation and destroyed by it. 
His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[67:22] Is he who walks prone upon his face, more rightly guided...? 

He said: 

Is he who is bent over [in pursuit] of the desire of his lower self, due to its natural disposition, 
and who is without guidance from his Lord, better guided? 

[67:22] ...or one who walks upright on a straight way? 

He said: 

By which is meant: or one who follows the laws of Islam, and emulates the prophets, r adhering 
to it [the straight path] ( muqiman c alayhif ? 5 But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 


3 The saying is cited in Makki, Qut al-qulub , vol. 2, p. 4. 

4 Interestingly, the first part of this statement is cited in Makki, Qut al-quliib , vol. 2, p. 9, where it is not attributed to Tustari. 
In explaining the need to ‘flee from tawakkul ’, Makki mentions firstly the necessary abandoning of any dependence on 
the station of tawakkul, and secondly, that looking upon ones tawakkul is a flaw in that tawakkul, for the person should 
continuously have their attention upon the Guardian ( al-Wakil ) alone. This complies with several of Tustari s statements 
concerning the need not to feel complacent about ones state. 

5 Added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 119b, F638, f. 57a and F3488, f. 300a. 


241 


68 Al-Qalam (or Nun)' 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[68:1] Nun. By the Pen, and by what they inscribe! 

He said: 

‘Al-Nun is one of the names of God, Exalted is He, for if the opening letters of the suras, Alif 
Lam Rd, Ha Mim and Nun, are joined together they make up the name al-Rahman. 1 2 3 
Ibn "Abbas said: ‘ Al-Nun is the ink-well ( dawat ) from which the Reminder ( dhikr ) [the 
Qur'an] was written, and the Pen is that with which the Wise Reminder was written.’ 

By what they inscribe — r the Reminder which is written on the Preserved Tablet concerning 
the [divinely decreed] wretchedness ( shaqdwa ) or felicity (sa c ada) [of human beings]. 

Ibn "Abbas has said in another report, ‘Nun is the fish upon which rest the worlds ( ardun j, 1 3 what 
they inscribe is the deeds of the children of Adam which the recording angels have written down.’ 4 
"Umar b. Wasil said: 

By what they inscribe means: By the writing ( kitdba ) [i.e. the scripture] which God has under- 
taken [to provide] for His servants, which contains benefits ( manafL ) for people, and things 
that are in the best interests ( masdlih ) of His servants and their lands. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[68:3] and assuredly you will have an unfailing reward, 

He said: 

That is, defined, apportioned ( mahdud maqtul) and calculated ( mahsub ) for you. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[68:4] and assuredly you possess a magnificent character . 5 
He said: 

You have taken on the propriety taught by the Qur'an ( ta’addabta bi-adab al-Qufdn), and have 
not exceeded its bounds, which are in His words, Exalted is He: Indeed God enjoins justice and 
virtue. . . to the end of the verse [16:90], 6 and also in His words, It was by the mercy of God that 
you were lenient with them [3:159]. 

Then he said: 

Truly anger ( ghadab ) and harshness ( hidda ) come from the servant’s dependence on his own 
strength ( quwwa ). However, when he gives up relying on his own strength, weakness will take 

1 MS Z515 carries the former title, while MSS F638 and F3488 carry the latter title. 

2 See the commentary on the Basmala [1:1], above. 

3 According to cosmological legend, the earth (or as here, earths, ardun ) rest on the back of a fish, or on the horns of an 
ox, which, in turn, rests on the back of a fish. See Anton M. Heinen, Islamic Cosmology. A Study of as-Suyutis al-Hay'a 
al-samiyafi’l-hay'a al-sunniya (Beirut/Wiesbaden, 1982), pp. 85-6. 

4 The section between brackets has been added on the basis of all three MSS: Z515, f. 119b, F638, f. 57a and F3488, f. 300a. 

5 These words are addressed to the Prophet. 

6 The rest of the verse reads: . . . and giving to kinsfolk , and He forbids lewdness, abomination and aggression. He admonished 
you so that you might remember. 


242 


68 Al-Qalam (or Nun) 


up residence in his soul, and this will generate mercy ( rahma ) and benevolence ( lutf) from him, 
which is to take on the characteristics of the Lord, may His majesty be magnified. 

God, Exalted is He, addressed David 8SB through inspiration, saying, ‘Take on My characteris- 
tics, for verily I am the Forbearing ( al-Sabur ).’ Whoever is given good character ( khulq hasan) 
has been given the greatest station ( cfzam al-maqdmdt), for all other stations are connected to 
the common folk ( c amma ), whereas good character is connected with the [divine] attributes 
( sifdt ) and qualities ( nu c ut ). 7 

Sahl was asked one day about charismatic gifts ( kardmdt ) and he said: 

What are charismatic gifts (kardmat)? Truly charismatic gifts are phenomena which will not 
last beyond their designated time. The greatest charismatic gift, however, is to change a blame- 
worthy trait within your character to a praiseworthy one. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[68:44] So leave Me [to deal with] whoever denies this discourse... 

He said: 

That is, leave him in My charge, for I will suffice you regarding his affair, so do not let your 
heart become preoccupied with him. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[68:44] ■•■We shall draw them on by degrees whence they do not know. 

He said: 

We shall leave them with their heads bowed over, diverted in their preoccupation with it [the 
world] from the duties that they should perform for Us, such that they forget to show gratitude 
towards Us, so We shall seize them whence they do not know? 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[68:49] Had it not been for a grace from his Lord that reached him ... 9 
He said: 

That is, if God had not kept for him his previous good deeds, which were a result of His pre- 
eternal election, and saved him, and had not the r grace from his Lord ( ni c ma min rabbihi ) 110 
reached him, ...he would surely have been cast out onto a barren [shore], while he was blame- 
worthy. The barren shore ( c an?) is the plain [lit. earth, c ard\ of the Resurrection, for nothing is 
cultivated or grown there. He had committed no other sin save that of busying his heart with 
planning (tadbir) that which was not for him to plan, just as Adam SsShad done [before him]. 11 



7 There is possibly an allusion here to the well-known hadith of the Prophet, ‘Take on the characteristics of God’ ( takhallaqu 
bi-akhlaq Allah), listed in c Ali b. Muhammad al-Jurjani, al-Ta c rifat (Beirut, 1987), p. 216, and in c Abd al-Ra 3 uf al-MunawI, 
al-Tawqif c ala muhimmat al-ta c arif (Beirut and Damascus, 1990), p. 564. 

8 Tustari is here using a conventional form of interpretation where the commentator inserts a meaning that he considers 
to be implied without its actually having been mentioned in the verse. 

9 This verse and the one that follows briefly allude to the story Jonah, which is narrated in a slightly extended form in 
37:139-48. Jonah is also referred to in 10:98, which is why that sura is named after him. 

10 Added on the basis of MS F638, f. 57b. MSS Z515, f. 120a and F3488, f. 30a have tadarakahu bil-amal , which is probably 
incorrect. 

11 For the role of Adams devising, planning or managing in his expulsion from Paradise see above Tustari’ s commentary 
on 2:30 where Jonahs resorting to his own tadbir is also mentioned. 


243 


69 Al-Haqqa 


His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 69 : 1 , 2 ] The sure Reality! What is the Reality ? 

He said: 

Indeed, God, Exalted is He, has magnified the circumstances of the Day of Resurrection and the 
severity ( shidda ) of it by the inclusion of the letter Ha" in it [the word al-haqqa]. 1 Its meaning 
is: the Day when each person will encounter his good and bad deeds. 

Umar b. Wasil said: 

Its meaning is that on that day each group (ta’ifa) will be given its just reward ( yahiqqu ) for 
its works. 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[ 69 : 17 ] ...And on that Day eight of them will bear the throne of your Lord above them. 

He said: 

This means eight regiments of cherubim whose number no one knows except God. The Prophet M 
said, ‘Indeed, God has allowed me to speak about one of the angels among the Throne Bearers. 
His feet are on the lowest earth, and upon his head rests the Throne. Between the lobes of his 
ears and his shoulders is the distance that a bird covers in flight during seven hundred years. 
This angel says, “Glory to God wherever I may be.’” 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 69 : 18 ] On that Day, you will be exposed and no hidden thing of yours will remain hidden. 

He said: 

You will be presented before God, Mighty and Majestic is He, and He will call you to account 
for your deeds, and not one of your deeds will be hidden from Him. That is all known [to Him] , 
calculated for you in His prior knowledge. And He will ask [the servant] about all of it, saying 
to him, ‘Did you not know about the hours [of the events of the Last Day] for My sake? Were 
you not placed in a position of [high standing] in assemblies [among people] for My sake? Did 
you not ask Me to marry you to such and such a bondswoman of Mine who was better than you 
and We married you to her? This is His questioning concerning the blessings He has bestowed 
upon you. So, how about His interrogation concerning the acts of transgression against Him? 
The saying has been related from c Utba al-Ghulam, ‘Truly, the believing servant will be kept 
standing before God, Exalted is He, a hundred years for one sin.’ 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[ 69 : 19 ] As for him who is given his book in his right hand, he will say, ‘Here, read my book ! 3 


1 ‘Ha 3 rather than ‘ha. It is thus in all the MSS. This is probably a reference to the ta 3 marbuta. Since the word is originally 
al-haqq, the addition of the ‘ha (i.e. the ta? marbuta) may have been in order to indicate the severity of the Day of 
Resurrection, thus it would read haqqah were we to mark the ta' marbuta. 

2 Haythami, Majma c al-zawa'id, vol. 1, p. 80; Tabarani, al-Mu c jam al-awsat, vol. 2, p. 199 and vol. 6, p. 314. 

3 What is meant is the book in which all his deeds are recorded. If it is given to the person in their right hand, it is full of 
good deeds, but if it is given in their left, it is full of bad ones. 


244 


69 Al-Haqqa 


That is, he says, ‘Look here! Read my book, which is full of different kinds of acts of obedience.’ 
And He says to them: 

[69:24] ‘Eat and drink in enjoyment [as a reward] for what you did formerly in days gone by.’ 
This is referring to fasting during the month of Ramadan and during the days of the full moon. 
It has been mentioned in a hadith that on the Day of Reckoning, tables spread with food will be 
placed before those believers who devoted themselves to fasting (sawwdm), from which they 
will eat. [Others] will say, ‘O Lord, people are standing for the Reckoning who are not eating.’ 
They will be told, ‘[These people] used to fast at length during the life of the world, while you 
ate your fill, and they would stay up at night in prayer while you took your rest.’ 

[69:25] But as for him who is given his book in his left hand, he will say, ‘Would that I had not 

been given my book.’ 

That is, because of the foul deeds ( a‘mdl khabitha ) and disbelief ( kufr ) contained within it, he 
wishes that he had never been resurrected and says: 

[69:27] ‘O, would that it had been the final end!’ 

That is, ‘If only the first death had remained with me, and I had not been resurrected!’ 

[69:28] ‘My wealth has not availed me.’ 

‘The abundance of wealth I possessed, since I did not pay what was due from it to God, and I 
did not use it to strengthen ties of kinship.’ 4 

[69:29] ‘My authority has gone from me.’ 

That is, ‘My proof and my excuse’. 

[69:30] ‘Seize him, then fetter him’, 

As soon as He says that, a hundred thousand angels will rush towards him. If just one of these 
angels took in his grasp the world and the mountains and seas it contains, he would be strong 
enough for that. [One of the angels] will take hold of his neck with his hands, and then he will 
enter the Hellfire (jahim ). 

[69:32] ‘And [ bind him] in a chain seventy cubits long.’ 

Each cubit is equivalent to seventy fathoms (bd‘), and each fathom is longer that the distance 
between Kufa and Mecca. 5 If you were to put one of its links on the summit of a mountain, it 
[the mountain] would melt, just as lead melts. This is what is related from Ibn c Abbas 4 P . It is 
also related that c Umar 4 b once said to Ka b, ‘Frighten us, O Abu Ishaq’. So he said, ‘O Com- 
mander of the believers, if you performed acts of worship to the extent that you became like a 
pruned stick, and you had to your credit the works of seventy prophets, you would still think 
that you will not be saved from the command of your Lord and the Throne Bearers. When the 
Preserved Tablet is brought forward with the record of all the deeds, when Hell is displayed and 
Paradise is brought near, and humanity stands before the Lord of the Worlds, Hell will heave 
a sigh that will cause every one of the angels who are drawn near ( malak muqarrab ) and every 
prophet messenger ( nabi mursal ) 6 to fall down on their knees without exception, to the point 
that Abraham will cry “My soul! My soul!” 7 Then the just man ( rajul c adil) and the oppressor 
( rajuljd’ir ) will be summoned, [the name of each being called out] above the heads of the masses. 
When the just man is brought forward, his book will be raised up to him for him to receive in 
his right hand. There is no happiness, no joy, and no rapture that ever descended on a servant 
greater than that which will descend on him on that day. And he will say above the heads of 
the crowds what God, Exalted is He, related. 8 Then the oppressor will be brought forward and 

4 On the prior right which a persons kith and kin have over the gifts he or she makes, see 33:6. 

5 Clearly, a fathom in this context is more than 6 feet! 

6 The word nabi is applied to all prophets while the word rasul (pi. rusul ) refers to those prophets who brought a message 
or scripture. 

7 An allusion to the hadith of intercession, listed in Bukhari, Sahih, ‘Kitab Ahadith al-anbiya 3 and ‘Kitab al-Riqaq’. 

8 i.e. the words of 69:19: Here, read my book! 


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his book will be thrust into his left hand, and there is no grief, no humiliation, and no distress 
that ever befell a man severer than that which will befall that man. He will then say above the 
heads of the crowds what God, Exalted is He, has related. 9 Then he will be seized and dragged 
on his face to the Fire and his flesh, bones and brains will be scattered about.’ 

Upon this TJmar 4e> cried, ‘That’s enough for me! Enough!’ 10 
Sahl said: 

The chains and shackles are not for the sake of binding [the people], but rather for the sake of 
dragging them ever lower, forever after, as long as they reside there. 

His words, Mighty and Majestic is He: 

[69:44] And had he fabricated any lies against Us, * 11 
He said: 

That is, if he said that which he had no permission [from Us] to say. 

[69:45] We would assuredly have seized him by the right hand, 

That is, We would have ordered for him to be seized by the hand just as is the practice of kings. 
[69:46] And We would assuredly have severed his life-artery (wartin), 

This being the aorta which is the main artery to which the heart is attached, and if it is cut the 
person dies. 12 We would cut it off as a result of his transgression against Us. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[69:48] And assuredly it is a reminder for those who are mindful of God. 

He said: 

That is, the Qur an is a mercy for those who are obedient. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[69:50] And assuredly it is a [cause of] anguish for the disbelievers. 

He said: 

That is, they see the reward that is had by the people who professed God’s oneness, along with 
their ranks and noble stations. 

But God, Glorified and Exalted is He, knows best. 



9 i.e. the words of w. 25-9, which were commented on above. 

10 Nlsaburi, al-Mustadrak, vol. 4, p. 634; Haythami, Majma c al-zawa’id, vol. 10, p. 342; Tabarani, al-Mu c jam al-kabir, vol. 
9, P- 360. 

11 The subject here is the Prophet. Verses 38-51 comprise an oath given by God, in answer to the disbelievers, that the 
Prophet’s speech is not that of a poet or soothsayer, but a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. 

12 See above, p. 86, n. 17 regarding habl al-warid, where wartin is mentioned. 


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His words, Exalted is He: 

[70:4] To Him ascend the angels and the spirit (ruh)... 

He said: 

The angels ascend with the deeds of the children of Adam, as does the spirit, which is the 
intuition of the self ( dhihn al-nafs). 1 They [the angels and the spirit] ascend to God, Exalted is 
He, in order to testify to the sincerity ( ikhlas ) in his [a mans] deeds. They cover the distance 
to the Throne, which measures fifty thousand years, in the blinking of an eye. This is the inner 
meaning of the verse. 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[70:5] So be patient with comely patience (sabran jamilan). 

That is, [with] contentment (rida) and without complaining ( shakwa ); for truly, complaints 
are a [form of] tribulation ( balwa ), and any claim to patience ( sabr ) that is accompanied by it 
[complaint] is merely a claim. [This notwithstanding], God, Exalted is He, has servants who 
complain through Him, from Him and to Him (bihi minhu ilayhi), as a proof of their restrain- 
ing their natural self ( nafs al-taV ) from turning its attention to anything other than the One 
for whose sake the patient show patience. 2 
His words, Exalted is He: 

[70:6, 7] Lo! They see it as being far off, while We see it [to be] near. 

He said: 

This means that they see the death, resurrection and reckoning that are decreed for them as 
far away ( bcfid ), due to the far-fetched nature (bu c d) of their hopes; while We see it [to be] near, 
for indeed everything in existence ( kcdin ) is close and that which is distant does not even exist. 3 
Then he said: 

The scholars sought [the justification] for having scruples ( waswasa ), concerning the Book and 
the Sunna, but they could not find a basis for it except legitimate inquisitiveness (fudul al-haldl), 
and legitimate inquisitiveness is that the servant considers a time other than the time he is in. 
This, [however] is [on the basis of] hope ( amal ). 4 It is related from Hubaysh on the authority 
of Ibn c Abbas that the Prophet M would pass water and then wipe himself with earth. So 
he [Ibn c Abbas?] said, ‘O Messenger of God, there is water near you!’, to which he replied, ‘I 
do not know, it may be that I won’t reach it.’ 5 And [the Prophet JS said to Usama (b. Zayd)], 6 


1 Sic in the MSS and the published edition. Perhaps what is meant is the intuition of the spiritual self. 

2 The prophet Jacob used the same words of this verse, when he said: Yet comely patience (sabr jamil), and interestingly, 
in 12:86 he says, ‘I complain of my anguish and grief only to God’. 

3 Here is another indication that one should be living in the present and be a son of the moment’ ( ibn al-waqt), which is 
clarified by the statement of Tustari which follows. 

4 Because a hypothesis often assumes a future and a situation other than the one that a person is in. 

5 Ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, vol. 1, p. 303. Makki, Qut al-qulub , vol. 2, p. 33. 

6 All the MSS have li-Usama : Z515, f. 122b, F638, f. 59a and F3488, f. 303b. 


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Tafslr al-Tustarl 


‘Our nearness to [obtaining water] is two months away. Indeed, Usama has far-reaching hopes 
( tawil al-amaiy.’ 

Sahl was asked, ‘How does the world leave the heart?’ He replied: 

By the shortening of hope. 

[Then] he was asked: ‘What is it that shortens hope?’ He replied: 

It is cutting off from concerns ( humum ) with what is guaranteed ( madmun ), and finding reli- 
ance ( sukun ) on the Guarantor ( al-Damin ). 

His words, Exalted is He: 

[70:19] Indeed man was created restless, 

He said: 

This means that he is turned this way and that by the impulses of his lusts ( shahawat ) and 
pursuance of his desire ( hawd ). 

[70:20, 21] When evil befalls him [he is] anxious •$> and when good befalls him [he is] grudging, 
He said: 

If he experiences poverty ( iftaqara ) he grieves ( hazana ), but when he becomes wealthy ( athra ) 
he withholds it from others (manala ). 7 
[70:22] except those who pray... 

That is, those who have cognisance of ( c arifun ) the [true] proportions ( maqadir ) of things, 
since they do not find joy (farah ) in anything other than God. They do not repose in anything 
other than Him and they do not fear 8 anything other than Him, their [only source of] anxiety 
being the possibility of separation from Him, just as He says, and who are apprehensive of the 
chastisement of their Lord [70:27]. 

The saying is narrated from the Prophet $§: ‘According to what the highest host in the highest 
ranks informed me, among the best of my nation are people who laugh out loud at the amplitude 
of the mercy of their Lord, and weep in secret out of fear of the severity of the punishment of 
their Lord. They remember their Lord morning and night in His blessed houses, and make 
supplications to Him with their tongues in hope and fear. They petition Him with their hands, 
lowering [their upturned palms] and raising them, and they long for Him constantly with their 
hearts. Their demands on people are light, but their demands on themselves heavy. They tread 
upon the earth [lightly] with their feet, as an ant would tread, without gloating, boa